Dry Needling: What CPT Code to Bill

February 8, 2016
Rick Gawenda

As more and more therapists are getting trained in dry needling, I receive more questions on what CPT code do I bill for the dry needling techniques? According to APTA, “Dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. It is a technique used to treat dysfunctions in skeletal muscle, fascia, and connective tissue, and to diminish persistent peripheral nociceptive input, and reduce or restore impairments in body structure and function, leading to improved activity and participation.”

So now that we have defined what dry needling is, what CPT code do we bill to be paid for our services? Many providers think or are told to bill for dry needling using CPT code 97140, Manual therapy techniques (eg, mobilization/manipulation, manual lymphatic drainage, manual traction), one or more regions, each 15 minutes. But is this the correct code to use? What does the American Medical Association (AMA) say about what is included in CPT code 97140 and why do we care what the AMA says?

The reason we care what the AMA states is that the AMA is the organization that

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  1. Every insurance is different and technically you can’t bill 97140 for dry needling. Medicare does not allow for this code or any code to cover dry needling and must be paid out of pocket after signing an ABN form.

    As an instructor, we review this with our students.


    1. As stated in the article, you would need to contact the specific insurance carrier. If the insurance carrier states dry needling is to be billed using CPT code 97140, then that is the CPT code to bill. Most insurance carriers do not pay separately for dry needling and consider it investigational and experimental.

  2. Are there any updates to this content? I see it’s from February 2016 and just curious if anything has changed?

  3. Is there a link for any statement by Medicare that Dry Needling requires a ABN and is a non covered service?

    1. There is no national statement from CMS for what you are asking. Dry needling is not considered manual therapy and is not included in CPT code 97140. You would want to issue an ABN to the Medicare beneficiary.

  4. What about patients with commercial insurance, i.e. BCBS, do you need them to sign an ABN? If they are only being treated for dry needling, do you collect their copay?