Thank you for your support to amend 2SHB 1039 – Concerning physical therapists performing intramuscular needling!

Published: March 21, 2023

This post was originally published on the Washington Acupuncture & Eastern Medicine Association.

Your calls to state legislators made a huge difference at the public hearing in the Senate Health Care Committee on March 14th! Over 850 people signed in Con for the hearing and about 950 Physical Therapists (PTs) signed in Pro. There were also numerous Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine Practitioners (AEMPs) that were able to testify in support of our amendment request. This was a huge showing of strength for the Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine Profession and we were successful in getting the majority of amendments to the bill that we were requesting!!

As background, 2023 is quite different than other years when the PTs have run dry needling legislation. In the past Representative Cody was unwilling to hear the dry needling bill in the House Health Care Committee where she was the Chair. She was a nurse and did not want PTs to insert needles into patients…it was never about protecting our profession, only about protecting the public.

Since Representative Cody retired at the beginning of the year, there has been a wave of support for PTs getting dry needling in their scope of practice that we were not able to overcome. 2SHB 1039 has 18 bill sponsors, both Democrats and Republicans in the House. It passed out of the House Health Care Committee unanimously and the House of Representatives with a vote of 94/1. The political reality this year is that the bill has the support to pass the legislature.

WAEMA has been working hard to mitigate impacts on the profession and to make clear distinctions between acupuncture and dry needling such as needle retention. With your help, we were able to get the PTs and their legislative sponsors to make a number of amendments that improved the bill, protect the public and our scope of practice, including:

  • Added “myofascial trigger points” to the definition of intramuscular needling and dry needling, to align with the 2016 Sunrise Review and narrow the treatment scope allowed.
  • There will be no needle retention without active stimulation. This is a huge win and helps distinguish between dry needling and acupuncture!
  • No distal or auricular needling will be allowed.
  • Establishes an endorsement from the Secretary of Health authorizing physical therapists to perform intramuscular needling.
  • Education and training was increased from 175 to 325 hours, include 150 clinically reviewed patients. This is the highest standard of training for PTs in the United States.
  • Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine Practitioners are now included as a qualified provider for the clinical review requirement.
  • Dry needling will only be an adjunctive treatment option, not a stand-alone service nor can it comprise the entirety of their practices.

It is only because of the combined efforts of so many members, our lobbyist Leslie Emerick, and the work of 7 current and former presidents we were able to negotiate these changes to the bill! As with all negotiations, neither party gets everything they want…but we got most of what we wanted to protect the public and our profession in this amended bill.

The amended bill goes a long way to protecting the integrity and intent of acupuncture and Eastern medicine! Together we were able to negotiate a strong, clear definition of what Intramuscular trigger point dry needling looks like in practice and how it is very different from acupuncture.

As of March 17th , the bill has been amended in Executive Session and will move from the Senate Health Care Committee to the Rules Committee. The additional changes, made in response to many acupuncturists; contacting their senators, allow us to take a neutral position on the bill. We expect no further amendments anticipate working closely with the PTs during the rule making phase of the bill’s journey.

With great gratitude for your support,

Chaiya Sherman, DAOM/LAc
President, Washington Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine Association

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