Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


When I had a bike accident in Sweden the physical therapist there did acupuncture on my shoulder. I've never seen a PT do that in the states. Is it legal?


Acupuncture schools exist around the world. You don't have to be a medical doctor to study acupuncture. There is an International Acupunture Association of Physical Therapists. Physical therapists in other countries like China, Canada, and Sweden can do acupuncture.

In Sweden PTs gained the right to do acupuncture in 1984 when the practice was approved by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. Special training is required and only registered medical professionals can learn acupuncture.

In the United States physical therapists are regulated by the practice act of the state in which the therapist is conducting business. If the practice act doesn't mention acupuncture, then they can do it by exclusion. Most, if not all, states do not permit a physical therapist to do acupuncture at this time.

PTs in the United States can stimulate acupuncture points with electrical stimulation, ultrasound, or direct pressure. This technique is called acupressure.

Kajsa M. Johansson, PT, PhD, et al. Effects of Acupuncture Versus Ultrasound in Patients with Impingement Syndrome: Randomized Clinical Trial. In Physical Therapy. June 2005. Vol. 85. No. 6. Pp. 490-501.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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