January 9, 2018
The Colorado State Physical Therapy Board recently defeated a lawsuit filed by two acupuncture organizations challenging Physical Therapy Board Rule 211 and physical therapists’ ability to perform dry needling. The Colorado Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association (CO APTA) participated as an amicus party. CO APTA was represented by the law firm of Caplan and Earnest, with its team of lawyers being led in this case by Sheryl Bridges.
The Court’s ruling in the PT Board’s favor was significant in that it declared that the Board acted within its statutory authority in allowing physical therapists to perform dry needling. In his order denying the acupuncturists’ requests, Judge Bruce A. Jones held that “there is sufficient elasticity in the [Physical Therapy Practice] Act’s definition of physical therapy to encompass dry needling.”
Dry needling is a technique used by physical therapists to treat pain and other chronic movement impairments.
According to Bridges, the debate centered around the acupuncturist organizations’ arguments that the practice of dry needling was not a physical therapy act, but was instead an act of acupuncture.
The ruling, according to Bridges, does not put an end to this dispute but should make it more difficult for this type of argument to gain traction as the PT Act heads into sunset review.
“This ruling upholds the Colorado Chapter’s position that the Colorado physical therapy practice is inclusive of language that ‘provide for new developments in physical therapy practice,’ which includes dry needling,” said Cameron MacDonald, president of the Colorado Chapter of the APTA and assistant professor at Regis University, who further explained that prior legislative debate on this issue had been split.
“As we move into the legislative session and the sunset process of the PT Practice Act, the Chapter will remain diligent in seeking to strengthen the PT Practice Act in Colorado,” MacDonald said. “The Chapter is pleased that the due diligence, task force work, and legal services provided generated a very positive outcome. Many were involved in this effort. This verdict is positive for Coloradan’s who seek health care from physical therapists. It does not limit the scope of any other practitioner.”
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