Acupuncture and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has become a much more well respected and sought after service than it was in previous years. Physical therapy use to be reserved for serious accidents and athletes; however, more people are finding a wider variety of uses for these medical personnel. Alternative medicine has become more popular as well with chiropractors and acupuncturists seeing an increase in business. When two or more of these professionals decide to work together, the results can be overwhelmingly positive.

Than Annals of Internal Medicine published an article discussing a study that combined acupuncture, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory drugs to treat osteoarthritis of the knee. The study found that those who received traditional Chinese acupuncture were overall more satisfied with their treatment than were members of the control group or those who were only receiving physical therapy and medication. This study did have some limitations but it does provide some evidence of the efficacy of combining the two forms of treatment.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine that is designed to promote overall health and to reduce the pain and suffering of the patient. An acupuncturist looks at the energy of the patient’s body that flows along specific meridians and then uses thin needles to tap into that energy and alter the way the energy flows through the body to improve overall health. While this process may seem quite mysterious to many patients in the West, it is a well respected form of medicine and studies have indicated it does indeed alleviate pain.

Implications for Physical Therapists

While physical therapists have seen the demand for their services explode over the last decade, they have also seen an increase in the competition for patients as new therapists enter the workforce. In order to distinguish themselves from the other therapists in their area, they may need to offer additional services for their patients. One way to do this is to collaborate with a trained acupuncturist. This brings a holistic approach to the healing process that many patients may find attractive.

By offering both services in the same office, patients would be able to book consecutive appointments, and the practitioners could work together to form a plan of care. One possible collaborative effort would be for the acupuncturist to relieve the pain caused by the physical therapy or to reduce pain prior to a physical therapy session in order to allow the patient to more fully benefit from the session.

Acupuncture is certainly not as well accepted in mainstream America as some of the other alternative medicines, but it is increasingly gaining ground. How do you feel about physical therapists and acupuncturists working together? Do you think the treatments complement each other or do you think they should be kept completely separate?

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