In November 2013, 17-year-old Torin Yater-Wallace suffered a penetrating right lung injury related to dry needling performed by a physical therapist. The penetrating right lung injury resulted in a traumatic pneumothorax (an accumulation of air in the pleural cavity resulting from blunt or penetrating chest injury and causing lung collapse). He was treated for the traumatic pneumothorax at the emergency department of the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colorado, and was admitted to that hospital on the same day. The traumatic pneumothorax required medical and surgical intervention. He was hospitalized for five days. (Photo: @TorinWallace)


Medicare Fraud Relating to Dry Needling

Dry needling is acupuncture [1], which is not a covered service under Medicare [2].

The use of an acupuncture needle with or without the passage of electric current through the acupuncture needle is not a covered service under Medicare [2].

It is a violation of Federal law when physical therapists or other providers submit a claim for payment to Medicare for dry needling disguised, for example, as electrical stimulation (Current Procedural Terminology [CPT] code 97032), therapeutic exercises (CPT code 97110), neuromuscular reeducation (CPT code 97112), or manual therapy (CPT code 97140) [3].

To report allegations of Medicare fraud relating to dry needling, call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG) at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). TTY users can call 1-800-377-4950.


  1. Yellow Emperor’s inner classic (traditional Chinese: 黃帝內經; pinyin: Huáng Dì nèi jīng). (China); compiled in the first century BCE.

  2. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare & You. Baltimore (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; 2017 Nov.

  3. See 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729–3733.