P03.11. Should Acupuncture Be Within the Scope of Physical Therapy Practice in the United States?
Focus Areas: Integrative Approaches to Care
A growing number of physiotherapists around the globe have begun incorporating acupuncture into their treatment plans for patients with neuromuscular conditions. Acupuncture has been established as being safe and effective within the 11 countries forming the International Acupuncture Association of Physical Therapists (IAAPT), allowing for acupuncture to be practiced by physiotherapists and integrated into their school curriculum. The objective of this evidence-based review is to analyze evidence on several aspects of acupuncture: (1) clinical evidence and effectiveness, (2) physiological foundation, (3) placebo effect, (4) safety, (5) educational requirements, and (6) cost effectiveness. This review will provide a framework for discussion regarding whether acupuncture should be included in the scope of physical therapy practice in the United States. All levels of the evidence hierarchy, as described by the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, were included in this report. Intervention studies (levels 1-3) were further rated (strong, moderate, or weak) based on a quality scoring system developed by the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). Inclusion criteria included articles relating to physiological effects of acupuncture, clinical relevance of acupuncture, safety of acupuncture, interventions related to acupuncture, and cost effectiveness.
The research suggests that acupuncture, when combined with other physical therapy interventions, is safe and cost effective due to the reported reduction in pain level, faster healing times, and greater increases in range of motion. Although additional research should be conducted, current evidence supports that a discussion should take place about adding acupuncture into the physical therapy scope of practice in the United States.