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 damage to the lung that allowed air to leave the lung and accumulate in the space between the lung and the chest wall (pleural space), causing the lung to collapse (a traumatic pneumothorax) [1,2]. He required surgery to insert a tube (thoracostomy or chest tube) into the pleural space to drain the air and allow the lung to re-expand [1]. He 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.