Evaluating the international standards gap for the use of acupuncture needles by physiotherapists and chiropractors: A policy analysis.

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Evaluating the international standards gap for the use of acupuncture needles by physiotherapists and chiropractors: A policy analysis.

PLoS One. 2019;14(12):e0226601

Authors: Ijaz N, Boon H

Abstract
BACKGROUND: Acupuncture needles have become an increasingly-popular treatment tool used by multiple health professions. However, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 1999 training guidelines for acupuncture address only medical doctors and licensed acupuncturists, leaving a gap as to appropriate training standards for other professions.
AIMS AND METHODS: With reference to an extensive document analysis, and interviews with seventeen acupuncture educators from across several professions in Ontario, Canada, this work uses a critical qualitative policy analytic approach to: a) present a comprehensive account of statutory training requirements for acupuncture-needling physiotherapists and chiropractors in the United States, Canada, and Australia; and b) evaluate competing stakeholder discourses pertaining to recent related controversies.
RESULTS: A wide range of educational requirements are evident across the jurisdictions under study (most below the 200-hour WHO guideline for physicians); and there is considerable disagreement among stakeholders as to what constitutes sufficient training in various forms of acupuncture, including ‘dry needling’. Organizations defending brief post-graduate training for needling physiotherapists and chiropractors are generally associated with these two professions, and contend that their ‘dry needling’ practices differ substantially from traditional acupuncture. Characterizing such brief training as insufficient, opportunistic and unsafe, and ‘dry needling’ as a subset of acupuncture practice, are the voices of all acupuncture educators interviewed, as well as professional organizations representing physicians, licensed acupuncturists, and some physiotherapists and chiropractors.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Critiquing claims on both sides of the debate, this work calls for the development of independent, international safety-geared training guidelines that explicitly address the recent, evidence-informed trend towards biomedicalized acupuncture needling. Findings also suggest a need for additional research regarding the current shift towards overlapping-rather than exclusive-health professional practice scopes in industrialized countries.

PMID: 31846494 [PubMed – in process]

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