Dry Needling Rulings
Is Dry Needling Legal in Washington?
- In 2011, dry needling was put on the agenda of the licensing board, the Washington State Board of Physical Therapy (WBPT), however the licensing board took no action and remained silent. In 2012, WBPT looked at the issue again and agreed that PTs performing dry needling need to be properly trained; however, they still took no action.
- On October 10, 2014, the Honorable Laura C. Inveen, judge at the Superior Court for the State of Washington, County of King, ruled that dry needling is considered the practice of medicine in Washington State and outside the scope of physical therapy practice. Kinetacore, a continuing education company based in Colorado, was enjoined from holding any workshops, classes or similar trainings in the State of Washington by physical therapists. The ruling was the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the State of Washington ex rel South Sound Acupuncture Association, a State of Washington non-profit corporation, vs. Kinetacore, a Colorado LLC doing business in the State of Washington, Edo Zylstra, CEO and owner of Kinetacore, Kerry Maywhort, a Kinetacore instructor, Emerald City Physical Therapy Services, LLC doing business as Salmopn Bay Physical Therapy. LLC, a limited liability company, John Does 1-10 and Jane Does 1-10, No. 13-2-04894-9 SEA.
- In January 2015, Representative Eileen Cody and Chair of the House Health and Wellness Committee sponsored a bill that would prohibit PTs from performing dry needling.
- On March 31, 2015, a Washington State Senate Committee killed a proposed bill HB 1042, which would have prevented physical therapists from using dry needling in Washington State.
- On April 15, 2016, the Attorney General of Washington State concluded that “the definition of the practice of physical therapy indicates that the legislature did not intend to include dry needling within the scope of practice. We have been informed of many reasons for including dry needling in the practice of physical therapy and arguments to the contrary, but our role is not to resolve such public policy disputes. We conclude only that RCW 18.74, as currently written and implemented, does not encompass dry needling in the practice of physical therapy”.
- On August 2, 2016, Jan Dommerholt and other dry needling experts testified on behalf of PTs competence to perform dry needling as part of a Physical Therapy Sunrise Review. The Sunrise Review committee concluded that with adequate training, “dry needling may fit within the physical therapist’s scope of practice” and agreed that the evidence demonstrated a “low rate of serious adverse events” from physical therapists performing dry needling in other states, the US military and Canada.
- In May and September 2018, the Physical Therapy Association of Washington (PTWA) met with the Washington East Asian Medical Association (WEAMA), through a legislative mediation group “Center for Dialog & Resolution." The PTWA did concede the term "dry needling," and instead put the term “intramuscular needling” into a bill, since this was a particular “sticking point” for WEAMA. As a side note, the term "intramuscular needling" does not comprise the entire scope of dry needling as it negates scar tissue and fascial needling, periosteall needling, etc. (Myopain Seminars).
- During the 2019 Legislative session, the Vice Chair of the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee, Representative Nicole Macri sponsored HB 1260 in support of "intramuscular needling" by physical therapists. The corollary bill in the Senate, SB 5642, was sponsored by the Chair of the Health and Long Term Care Committee, Senator Annette Cleveland. A key point in the bill is that Washington State would have the most rigorous continuing education requirement in the country at 300 hours (this includes 75 hours of direct needle instruction, 75 hours of related content instruction and 150 hours of supervision), compared to other states that have either no minimum hour requirements, such as North Carolina and Virginia, or require on between 27-80 hours. Even so, the Chair of the Health & Wellness committee, Sen. Eileen Cody refused to put the bill on the committee hearing calendar, with the rationale that patients are not asking their legislators for this service.
- During the 2022 legislative session, House bill HB 1662 - Physical therapists performing intramuscular needling - again did not receive a hearing and did not pass.
- On March 14, 2022, Rep Eileen Cody announced her retirement. The PTWA plans to reintroduce "intramuscular needling" legislation in 2023.