Dry Needling Is Unsafe When Performed by Unqualified Practitioners of Acupuncture, Such as Physical Therapists

Patients need to be aware that dry needling is unsafe when performed by unqualified practitioners of acupuncture, such as physical therapists. For example, in Colorado, a physical therapist punctured freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace’s right lung with an acupuncture needle, causing an injury to the lung, which resulted in a traumatic pneumothorax (an accumulation of air between the chest wall and the lung resulting from trauma and causing partial or complete collapse of the lung) [1,2]. He required surgery to treat the traumatic pneumothorax and was hospitalized for five days [1].

Freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace gives a thumbs down in the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colorado, on November 29, 2013, during recovery from surgery to treat a traumatic pneumothorax that he suffered after a physical therapist punctured his right lung with an acupuncture needle. (Photo: @TorinWallace)

Patient safety and quality of care are paramount. Therefore, the American Medical Association (AMA) warns that dry needling should only be performed by qualified practitioners of acupuncture, such as physicians and acupuncturists [3].


  1. Axon R. Torin Yater-Wallace bounces back from collapsed lung with top run. USA Today. 2013 Dec 14.

  2. Mutrie T. Torin under pressure. X Games. 2014 Jan 13.

  3. American Medical Association. Physicians take on timely public health issues. AMA Wire. 2016 Jun 15.