Could Approval of Dry Needling Increase Risk of Medical Malpractice?
Two bills have recently been introduced in Florida, and if passed, they could put physical therapists and patients on pins and needles—literally. If adopted this year, HB 467 and SB 792 would allow physical therapists to perform dry needling techniques on patients. In addition, not much training would be required, at just 25 hours of continuing education, compared to the 300 hours required by medical acupuncturists. Licensed acupuncturists must have much more training—2,700 hours over the course of four years. Of that, a whopping 660 hours is dedicated to supervised clinical training.
This is causing an uproar for medical malpractice insurance companies, and for good reason.
The law currently allows physical therapists to perform dry needling in 34 states and D.C., and there have been some issues. Between 2012 and 2017, 19 states saw a total of 34 dry needling claims. Patients have suffered injuries, such as collapsed lungs, after being treated for back, neck or shoulder pain. Many of these claims arose “use of improper technique” and “lack of informed consent.” As such, dry needling has been classified as an emerging risk exposure. To protect patients, the Florida Acupuncture Association and the Florida State Oriental Medical Association are asking lawmakers to reconsider the training requirements, which should be expanded to 200 hours of post-graduate dry needling training.
What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a technique similar to acupuncture that is used for pain relief. While both involve the same tools, that’s where the similarities end. Dry needling is based on Western medicine, while acupuncture is an Eastern form of medicine.
Dry needling involves the use of a thin needle, which penetrates the skin and treats pain and mobility issues in the muscles. It does this by attacking trigger points, which are tight bands in the muscles that can cause pain and other dysfunction. Dry needling can decrease this tightness, which then increases blood flow while alleviating pain.
Dry needling is often done in conjunction with other physical therapy procedures. It can be used to help with pain in the back, neck, shoulders and hips, as well as other musculoskeletal issues.
The most common side effect associated with dry needling is a temporary increase in pain that lasts a day or two. Some people may feel tired or fatigued. Others develop skin reactions. Fainting can also occur. Some experience bruising or bleeding at the needle insertion site. A more serious issue is collapsed lung, which can occur if the physical therapist is not well-trained.
Seek Help for Your Medical Malpractice Case
The goal of physical therapists, doctors and others in the medical field should be to do no harm. By allowing physical therapists to engage in dry needling with very little training, the state of Florida is opening itself up to medical malpractice claims and other issues.
If you or a loved one was injured or killed by medical malpractice, let the Dade City & Zephyrhills medical malpractice lawyers at Madonna Law Group help you with your case. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (800) 557-0411 today.