The difference is that a practitioner is either fully qualified to insert needles or they are not. Since 2012, only practitioners with extensive acupuncture training can use the word “acupuncture”. Everyone else has to use the lesser and rudimentary “dry needling” term.
What happened in 2012?
On the 1st July 2012 the Australian government introduced the national registration of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) profession. This is the same type of regulation that applies to doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and psychologists – and requires extensive training and university qualifications to register as an acupuncture practitioner.
But this does not stop anybody else offering the so called dry needling services – they can simply do a short 2-3 day course and start inserting needles where it hurts.
Why choose a registered acupuncturist?
There is much more to acupuncture than inserting needles into sore points, which may only be a symptom of an underlying cause or condition. Acupuncture requires a comprehensive patient assessment, an acupuncture diagnosis and a personal treatment plan. Appropriate needling methods and supplementary treatments can then be administered. Supplementary treatments may include cupping, moxibustion, Chinese herbal medicine, exercise therapy or dietary recommendations. Acupuncturists can also work with your existing doctor or GP. In addition, an acupuncturist must undertake continual professional development to stay registered.
Acupuncture is considered to be safe in the hands of well-trained practitioners. However, without this extensive training, dry needling by non-acupuncturists raises the risk of more complications, some of which can be quite painful and serious. Historical note: The dry needling terminology came from Dr Janet Travell, MD in the mid 1900’s when she inserted “dry” or empty hypodermic needles which did not contain any medication.
Is my practitioner fully qualified and registered in acupuncture?
Go to the free online practitioner search facility in the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website https://www.ahpra.gov.au/registration/registers-of-practitioners.aspx
As registered practitioners entrusted with the care of your health, we are here to ensure that you always receive safe and effective acupuncture treatments.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are generally considered to be safe in the hands of a well-trained practitioner, but occasionally (as with all health treatments) may be associated with possible adverse reactions in individual cases.
And a final note of thanks to the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) for their assistance with this article.