Objective: Acupuncture guidelines have advised caution when treating women during pregnancy, because historical "forbidden" acupuncture points are believed to stimulate miscarriage or early labor. Despite recent research demonstrating that acupuncture is a useful and safe treatment tool for pregnancy-related low-back pain (LBP) and pelvic girdle pain (PGP), it is postulated that fear of miscarriage and subsequent blame by association, restricts its provision. More recently, an increase in dry needling (DN) courses for physiotherapists has potentiated the rapid growth in DN practice in New Zealand (NZ). Many dry needlers do not consider DN to be a form of acupuncture; it is unknown if they have similar safety concerns.
Methods: NZ registered physiotherapists practicing acupuncture and/or DN were invited to participate in an electronic survey to examine their practice and level of understanding in regard to safe needling during pregnancy.
Results: Of 124 respondents, only 60 (48%) would needle pregnant women, with a further 66% of those still expressing safety concerns. NZ physiotherapists practicing DN only, were more likely to needle areas related to "forbidden" points in all trimesters. However, overall, NZ physiotherapists were less likely to needle "forbidden" points than their UK peers.
Conclusion: Conflicting literature and a "fear of blame" influences NZ physiotherapists' decisions to offer needling (both acupuncture and DN) during pregnancy. Further training in this field is recommended to ensure safe practice and adequate provision of acupuncture treatment options for pregnant women suffering musculoskeletal pain, such as LBP and PGP. Further research, particularly into DN, for women during pregnancy, is warranted.
Keywords: Acupuncture; Dry needling; Physiotherapy; Pregnancy; Safety; Trigger point therapy.
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