Working together, those on the front lines of American & Traditional Asian Traumatology could move beyond localized pain management and add significant contributions to the whole health of athletes in the field of Sports Medicine.

ANNAPOLIS, MD, February 13, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ — Acupuncturists in Maryland are headed to a second hearing this month regarding the addition of dry needling to the scope of practice for Athletic Trainers in the state. In a prior hearing on February 7th, Athletic Trainers from the Baltimore Ravens stated that they needed to add this “skill” to their scope in order to provide the “highest quality care” for their athletes, whom they treat on a mind and body level. After their testimony, Maryland Acupuncture Society President, Dr. Denise Tyson, MBA, D.OM, L.Ac, responded in testimony that if anyone is “treating the mind and body with a needle, they are performing acupuncture.”

What is happening in Maryland is a reflection of what Acupuncturists nationwide are facing as they see Allied Healthcare professions introduce legislation to add forms of acupuncture to their scopes of practice in each state, after CMS released guidelines covering acupuncture for chronic low back pain in 2020. The anticipation that acupuncture services will be expanded federally to add more practitioners to the workforce that treats chronic pain and disability means that all who want insurance reimbursement must add acupuncture to their scope. Dry Needling is a form of acupuncture, called Ashi acupuncture, that is surface-level pain management. It is an excellent way of handling acute pain in localized area, but to understand the benefits of acupuncture beyond physical therapy, understanding the basic tenets of Traditional Asian Medicine would open the doors to faster recovery times that would encompass all aspects of the traumatic injuries athletes experience: from the muscle memory that must be recovered to perform after trauma, conquering the fear of further injury, to the depression and anxiety they experience during post-traumatic stress episodes and disorders related to the event of the injury.

AcuCongress founder, Dr. Kallie Byrd Guimond, MPH, OM.D, L.Ac, whose child was a Maryland high school athlete ranked nationally as a soccer goalie from 2015-2017, sees this as an opportunity to bring two sets of professionals together for the sake of most athletes who will train at elite levels, but due to injuries, may not end their careers in professional sports. Maryland is a state that has a multitude of Olympic training programs and club sports for athletes of all ages before entering into a strong college athletic system that crosses all sports and divisions. “Athletic Trainers are the first allied healthcare professionals on the front lines of traumatic sports injuries. They are dealing with compound fractures, potential paralysis, head injuries that require total brain rest and affect performance long after the events, and much more. They know that in order to put an athlete back on the field, that athlete must be whole, and that moves far beyond localized pain management. Why settle for an 80-hour course in a technique that works but has no medical theory beyond physical therapy, when you could work with those on the front lines of traumatology in our field to develop programs that combine the extensive education required by both sides? Why are we continuing to ask these extraordinarily skilled practitioners in their own fields to spend exorbitant amounts of money or take out expensive student loans to learn specialized sports-related medicine, when we can collaborate to create a pathway whereby we all learn from each other and help our patients be whole again?”

Both Acupuncturists and Athletic Trainers receive complex and comprehensive medical training in traumatology and pain management. When asked to describe the differences in treatment delivery, an NFL Team Acupuncturist, who holds both a doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, and a specialty certification in Sports Medicine Acupuncture offers that while acupuncture techniques like dry needling are similar in that they are anatomically-based treatments for local pain, those same patients could see better results in the hands of someone needling the exact same points with the competence and training in Traditional Asian Medicine would provide. They offer that for athletes in all sports, “just using the exact same, less-sophisticated treatment plans the PTs/ATs are able to put together would still have better outcomes if the needling was done by someone who truly understands how the body responds to the needle and how to slide it through tissues to stimulate the target tissues instead of potentially damaging all the other tissues along the way.” Rather than compartmentalizing a human being into specialties that require separate masters programs for sports medicine and sports psychology, Traditional Asian Medicine is a whole-healthcare system that combines anatomy with physiology and emotional/behavioral health to treat each unique patient at root levels of disease and injury, while tending to the extreme trauma the athlete has endured mentally and emotionally. Working with each other, Traditional Asian Medicine practitioners can help Athletic Trainers develop curriculums for acupuncture delivery that could offer ground-breaking long-term treatment plans that can return athletes to the field, whole, or can help with all facets of recovery, if unable to return to the field.

Aaron Adams, MAOM, L.Ac, Coordinator of the Human Performance Lab at Louisiana State University-Shreveport, professor of Anatomy & Kinesiology, former member of the US Olympic Weightlifting team, who received his Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health, says that performing dry needling out of the context of Traditional Asian Medicine can do more harm than good. “The lack of proper training and continuing education for athletic trainers and physical therapists in the practice of dry needling raises concerns about the potential harm they may be causing, rather than providing relief and healing, especially when compared to acupuncturists who are already well-qualified.” The Human Performance lab studies occupational hazards and athletic performance. Their current research involves predicting the likelihood of injuries on athletic teams based on a set of criteria.

Prior to the Maryland Acupuncture Practice Act, Acupuncturists and those teaching Acupuncture were jailed for performing surgery without a license. The industry rallied around the formation of educational standards, creating accredited institutions, board-certification exams that are nationally-recognized, and a pathway for Title IV funding through the federal government for student loans for their education. Dr. Tom Ignegno, DACM, MSOM, L.Ac, VP of Public Affairs for Maryland Acupuncture Society and former Chair of the Maryland Acupuncture Board (his term ended in 2020,) which regulates the Acupuncture profession says, “It doesn’t make sense that the acupuncture profession has had to prove itself through rigid national standards, advanced training, and massive amounts of research to become experts, only to say it’s safe for other professions with weekend courses to appropriate these techniques. Why would the bare minimum for my profession to pick up needles and perform invasive procedures require a minimum of a 3-year masters degree, but other fields remove the theory, have no explicit ability in their scope to perform invasive techniques, and pick up and perform the same methods with a couple of weekend courses? There are only two rational explanations: an anti-Asian ethnocentric bias and an attempt to make more money. None of this has patient safety in mind.”

As all prepare to provide written and oral testimony at the Maryland House Health & Government Operations Committee Hearing for SB 172, the Acupuncturists hope that the committee will move beyond the idea of turf battles and encourage both sides to sit down together for solutions that will benefit both the practitioners in their fields and the athletes that will need continuing care long after their injuries have healed physically. Guimond states, “Athletes of all ages experience extremely traumatic injuries both on and off the field. The worst day for an athlete is the day their career ends because of an injury, at any age. Former athletes experience higher rates of pain, for obvious reasons, but they also experience higher rates of depression and anxiety that can lead to substance use disorders, higher rates of opioid addiction and the potential for suicide and fatalities due to overdose is greater. Athletic Trainers must handle far more than a physical therapist would in continuing care of their athletes. They should be learning the technique along with the basic tenets of the whole healthcare system it comes from. We should all be working together to provide the most well-rounded care for these extraordinary people. This is an opportunity to contribute to the field of athlete care that treats their injures AND supports the indomitable spirits of the athletes who compete at all levels.”

AcuCongress is a coalition of state and national acupuncture associations and individual licensed acupuncturists dedicated to training the acupuncture industry in grassroots advocacy initiatives that will help expand their occupational outreach and patient access to Traditional Asian Medicine and the most educated, skilled practitioners in the field of Acupuncture. For more information, please see or email [email protected].

The Maryland Acupuncture Society works to promote acupuncture and Asian medicine, support and represent practitioners, and disseminate information that encourages integration of diverse methods of acupuncture and Asian medicine into Maryland health care, advocates our medicine in the community, promotes consumer education, freedom of choice, and affordable access to all medical care, and works with other health care providers for the wellness of the clients. MAS is committed to upholding high professional standards for members. For more information, visit

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