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  • Court Dismisses Lawsuit Filed by NC Acupuncture Licensing Board

    Advocates for North Carolina physical therapists (PTs) have scored a victory by way of a superior court, which dismissed a lawsuit brought by the North Carolina Acupuncture Licensing Board (NCALB) against the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners (NCBPTE), several PTs, and a physical therapy practice over the issue of dry needling by PTs.

    In September 2015, NCALB filed the lawsuit against NCBPTE, asking the Wake County Superior Court to declare that dry needling by PTs is the unlawful practice of acupuncture, and to require NCBPTE to advise its licensees that dry needling is outside the scope of physical therapist practice. The acupuncture board also asked the court authorize it to send cease and desist letters to PTs who practice dry needling and to sue the PTs who refuse to comply.

    On April 26, Judge Louis Bledsoe III dismissed the suit largely on jurisdictional grounds. "There is no reason to stop North Carolina patients from receiving dry-needling treatment," said North Carolina Physical Therapy Association (NCPTA) President C. David Edwards, PT, DPT, CCCE, in a statement posted to the NCPTA website. "This is especially true when the ones who are trying to eliminate dry needling are doing it to protect their power in the marketplace."

    The dismissal of NCALB’s case against the PT board is not the end of the fight over dry needling in the state. A second lawsuit filed in early October challenging NCALB’s efforts to prevent PTs from engaging in dry needling is still pending in US District Court. That lawsuit, supported by NCPTA, argues that NCALB is violating antitrust law and due process rights in its actions to prevent PTs from practicing the skilled intervention.

    The plaintiffs in the case, titled Henry v North Carolina Acupuncture Licensing Board, filed their lawsuit against NCALB after several years of efforts by the acupuncture board to shut down dry needling by physical therapists. NCALB engaged in various actions to prevent PTs from performing dry needling, including the issuing of "cease and desist" letters to PTs and clinics across the state claiming that the PTs practicing dry needling were illegally engaged in the practice of acupuncture, a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    The Henry lawsuit has legal support in a 2015 decision by the US Supreme Court holding that state licensing boards controlled by market participants, such as NCALB, are not exempt from antitrust claims unless their conduct is actively supervised by the state. The NCPTA lawsuit is the first in the country to bring this type of antitrust violation claim on behalf of PTs since the Supreme Court decision.

    NCPTA set up a "Go Fund Me" page to help fundraising efforts. APTA is working collaboratively with the chapter, and is providing support as NCPTA pursues the legal action.

    Dry needling has been discussed in several states, most of which have included the intervention as part of the PT scope of practice. APTA has created a webpage with resources on the topic, and the association's Learning Center offers courses on dry needling and clinical decision-making and background evidence for dry needling.


    • Way to go. Good work. We are lucky to have such a motivated group work on this issue.

      Posted by Ann Rugh on 5/6/2016 2:43 PM

    • Yea!! Let's keep the momentum going now that the stage is set for the rest of the country.

      Posted by Trevor Todd on 5/6/2016 7:34 PM

    • Thanks to brave PTs and PTAs in North Carolina. You have all my support on the antitrust law suit.

      Posted by Ime Udom, PT, DPT, PhD, CWS, FACCS on 5/7/2016 12:58 PM

    • Great work NC! We are going through a similar battle in Iowa. It is great to see our PT professionals taking action and defending our abilities and right to practice dry needling.

      Posted by Monica on 5/11/2016 5:12 PM

    • Dry needling is no more "acupuncture" than a GR V HVLA manuipulation to the spine is "chiropractic medicine". Is the PT administering dry needling to affect the "chi" of the patient? Does the PT even believe in "chi"? I know the PT has no clue or care what a "subluxation" per the chiropractic definition of it is. So they can't possibly be attempting to correct something they don't believe in or know anything of. These issues are silliness... Now, if I advertise "chiropractic care" or "acupuncture", I'd better have the credentials to be providing those things. Just like if a physician or chiropractor, massage therapist, or acupuncturist is advertising "physical therapy". They'd better have a physical therapist working there, providing the services.

      Posted by Dr. Leon A. Richard, PT, OCS on 5/11/2016 5:14 PM

    • Congrats to NC.

      Posted by Ruth Maher on 5/11/2016 5:51 PM

    • As a PT in NC I urge all APTA members to PLEASE help support this financially by going to the gofundme page. Any little bit helps!

      Posted by Jim Gregory on 5/11/2016 6:04 PM

    • Congrats to all of those who have worked so hard on this issue. Even in states like Colorado, where we thought this was settled, the Acupunture association is still advocating fund raising for legal action to fight dry needling. Your fight is not over so hang in there. Sending you more money today

      Posted by Chris West on 5/12/2016 7:37 AM

    • Thanks for paving the way. We have a big fight in front of us in California. The more momentum from other states, the better!

      Posted by Rachel Worman on 5/12/2016 11:01 AM

    • I found the judges comment about DN as a way to control who does the treatments. Based on this I would encourage NATA to attempt to over turn state laws on ATC doing treatment. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

      Posted by Max Morton PhD LPT ATC on 5/12/2016 1:28 PM

    • Way to go NC PTs , we should all get together and fight for patients outcomes and return to function instead of focusing on chi response etc.

      Posted by stanley gavriel on 5/15/2016 4:51 PM

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