James Pryor says the botched procedure left him with a punctured lung. Picture: Tony Gough
James Pryor says the botched procedure left him with a punctured lung. Picture: Tony Gough

Warning over popular pain therapy

A WARNING has been issued over dry needling treatments after a Melbourne man says a botched procedure left him with a punctured lung.

James Pryor, a 30-year-old mechanic, had an ache in his neck and shoulder when he went to see an osteopath to get dry needling - a type of alternative therapy similar to acupuncture.

Within an hour of leaving the clinic, in Melbourne's outer east, he said his chest was so sore he thought he was having a heart attack.

He went to hospital and an x-ray confirmed he had a punctured lung, which has kept him off work for the past two weeks and caused him ongoing chest pain. The stiffness in his neck was also lingering, he said.

Mr Pryor lodged a complaint with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency and has pursued legal action against the osteopath who carried out the treatment, alleging medical negligence.

He said he didn't feel any pain during the dry needling treatment but realised soon after he was in trouble.


Dry needling is a therapy similar to acupuncture. Picture: Stock image
Dry needling is a therapy similar to acupuncture. Picture: Stock image


"Driving home I had severe chest pain, severe shortness of breath, I was sweating, I couldn't breathe. I honestly dead set thought I was having a heart attack," he said.

When he received the diagnosis of his punctured lung he said he initially didn't believe it.

"I thought 'are you joking, are you for real?'. I was angry, I was in shock as well. I couldn't fathom it."

His lawyer Stuart Le Grand, of Le Grand Margalit lawyers, said his client's case highlighted the extreme side effects of the treatment.

"I find it deeply disturbing that a patient can come out with a punctured lung after getting treatment for a neck strain," he said.

Mr Le Grand said courses advertised online offered to give health practitioners a qualification in dry needling therapy within two days.

He said it raised questions over whether people were given sufficient training.

The Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency said the title of dry needling was not protected under the National Law and therefore could be performed by registered and non-registered practitioners.

An AHPRA spokeswoman warned: "practitioners who undertake dry needling should ensure they are suitably trained and complying with their respective National Board's standards and guidelines".

Myotherapy Association Australia chief executive Anna Yerondais said dry needling treatment could pose a risk if it was carried out by someone with inadequate training.

"When performed correctly, and with the informed consent of the recipient, the risk of a pneumothorax (punctured or pierced lung) is extremely low, and far from common," she said.

She said the association held concerns about dry needling courses that did not provide sufficient training.

"Perhaps it is time to ask those providing insurances to these practitioners; are they comfortable with people obtaining their training to 'stick a needle in someone' in just two days?"

Mr Pryor said he wanted to speak out about his injury to warn others of potential risks.

"This is serious, this is not something people can take lightly. It needs to be addressed, people need to be qualified and registered and have the right amount of training.

"You're playing with people's lives."

He said he was unsure exactly how the injury occurred; whether the wrong needle was used, or if it was placed in the wrong area.

The dry needling treatment involves sticking needles into muscle to release tension, relieve pain and improve mobility.