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Acupuncture in physiotherapy: a contemporary UK perspective
  1. Vivienne C Dascanio
  1. Correspondence to Vivienne C Dascanio, C/o David J Torgerson, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD; vcf500{at}york.ac.uk, Viviennefort{at}gmail.com

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Introduction

The current debate in the USA over professional ‘ownership’ of acupuncture, as detailed in the linked paper by Zhou et al1 and reflected by the recent position paper from the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/ForPhysicians/AbouttheAAMA/AAMAPositionStatement), is in stark contrast to the diverse, multidisciplinary approach that is flourishing in the UK. Dispelling the myths of physiotherapy (physical therapy) led acupuncture is a task that is long overdue. Perhaps the argument “why physiotherapists should not deliver acupuncture” should be reframed “why not physiotherapists (or other healthcare professionals who are not physicians)?”. Chartered physiotherapists are placed at the forefront of modern healthcare, with >55 000 currently practising in the UK.2 As professionally regulated and autonomous healthcare professionals, there is huge opportunity for physiotherapists to deliver acupuncture as part of mainstream healthcare for patient benefit.

Acupuncture in physiotherapy

Western medical acupuncture (WMA) practice by physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals in the UK and internationally has substantially increased in the last decade. The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) was established in 1984 and membership is currently >6500,3 double that of any other UK acupuncture organisation. Physiotherapists also contribute to the membership of the British Medical Acupuncture Society. Collectively, physiotherapists are the largest professional group of acupuncture providers in the UK and are arguably leading the way in bringing acupuncture into mainstream healthcare.

Physiotherapists have typically completed 3–4-year professional degrees, including extensive training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, and diagnostics. This provides an excellent foundation for learning acupuncture at an advanced level. Physiotherapy uses a holistic approach to patient care, which complements theories underpinning acupuncture. Most UK physiotherapists choose to study/practise WMA. Some complete masters degrees in acupuncture and a small proportion choose to study dry needling (DN) only.

As one example, AACP education/training of physiotherapists in WMA is provided at an advanced (masters degree) level. …

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