A Brief History of PAANZ

New Zealand physiotherapists are recorded as having practised acupuncture as early as 1972, when a member of the New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists laid a complaint about another physiotherapist for practicing acupuncture. The Ethical Committee of the day could find no grounds within the rules and the ethics of the society to censure the physiotherapist. Ten years later that same physiotherapist was elected the Inaugural President of The New Zealand Physiotherapy and Pain Modulation Association (PAPMA).

From the mid 1970’s a small nucleus of physiotherapists who had an interest in acupuncture began to grow and during this time the NZ Director General of Health toured China. On his return, he wrote a report on his findings, which portrayed Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in a most positive light.

Some physiotherapists went to Australia in 1980 to study acupuncture in more depth. Upon gaining further experience they formed a small special interest group of Physiotherapy Acupuncturists in New Zealand. The first acupuncture courses for physiotherapists in New Zealand began that same year with doctors and physiotherapists teaching short introductory acupuncture programmes.

In December 1982, the group was formalised at its inaugural meeting in Auckland. Annual Subscriptions were set at $10.00. It was agreed to hold an AGM in February 1983, where a committee would be elected. A resolution agreed upon at the meeting was to ‘investigate the possibility of setting up a course of instruction into aspects of acupuncture and pain modulation relative to physiotherapy’.

1983 then saw PAPMA run its first acupuncture programme of six days over three weekends.

The Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand accepted acupuncture as a physiotherapy modality in 1984. The New Zealand Society of Physiotherapy further acknowledged this later that year when PAPMA was formally recognised as a special interest group of the New Zealand Society of Physiotherapy.
PAPMA courses were held in several venues throughout New Zealand. The official two-year programme was in 10 parts:

First year

Introductory Course Parts 1- 4  (12 days over four weekends)

The course covered both scientific and traditional aspects of acupuncture, with emphasis on competency and safety.

Second year

Post Basic Course Parts 5-10 (five two-day courses, each building on the knowledge gained at introductory level.)

In 1989 PAPMA successfully lobbied the World Confederation for Physical Therapy to ‘accept acupuncture as a physiotherapy modality’. This was to improve recognition of physiotherapists practicing acupuncture worldwide, because in some countries the practice had been restricted to the medical profession.

In 1992, members of PAPMA who completed the two year programme, or had gained 150 hours or more acupuncture training elsewhere became eligible for the PAPMA Register, i.e. could apply to become a Registered Physiotherapy Acupuncturist.

1993 was a busy year. The PAPMA Executive Committee became a more formal entity under the PAPMA and NZSP Rules. The committee commenced holding monthly meetings and an Education Committee, an adjunct to the Executive, met annually to form the next year’s calendar and examinations.

A Register Sub-Committee was formed to amend the PAPMA Terms of Reference. Changes were required with the system of registration to fit in with the New Zealand College of Physiotherapy (NZCP). An Administration Officer was appointed to perform administrative duties for the organisation. And the first official physiotherapy acupuncture examinations were held. A pass in this examination now became necessary before applying for PAPMA Registration status.

1998 saw PAPMA renamed as ‘The Physiotherapy Acupuncture Association of New Zealand’, (PAANZ). The Introductory Programme was extended to include an Energetics Acupuncture Module. All PAANZ Tutors attended training courses for teachers and in addition members of the MASNZ taught on several Post Basic courses.

PAANZ commenced discussions with the Auckland Institute of Technology, now the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), to have the PAANZ Introductory Acupuncture Programme accepted as an academic course. This would enable study toward the Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma in Western Acupuncture. This was realised, and physiotherapists began to attend the new courses in 1999.

PAANZ held its final Introductory Acupuncture Course at Christchurch in 2002. However PAANZ remained focused on post basic courses, annual seminars and combined conferences in connection with the Medical Acupuncture Society of New Zealand (MASNZ). PAANZ runs a National Case History Day for PAANZ members, which is held annually in eight centres in New Zealand.

The PAANZ Terms of Reference was updated to include Book Reviews, Peer Reviews, and member’s Presentations to Groups as satisfactory evidence of ongoing learning. Education points were no longer limited to the attendance at courses and conferences.

By late 2003, the University of Otago had also agreed to the PAANZ proposal to provide University based introductory acupuncture study toward a Postgraduate Certificate in Physiotherapy, endorsed in Acupuncture. This commenced in March 2004.

In December 2004 the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand formally stated it’s recognition of Acupuncture as a modality within the practice of physiotherapy.

Since 2005, PAANZ has offered three basic training courses. These courses are specifically for members with less than the minimum 80 hours of acupuncture training recommended by PAANZ.

  • The Pre-Assessment four day course, which includes assessments, both practical and written
  • Introduction to Traditional Acupuncture – one day course
  • Introduction to Energetics – one-day course.

Post Basic courses are offered at venues throughout New Zealand and cover the spectrum of physiotherapy acupuncture:

  • Auricular, Shoulder, Headaches, Hip and Thigh, Ankle, Trigger Points, Clinical Reasoning and Safety are courses with a predominantly Western Approach.
  • Traditional Acupuncture is covered by a three day advanced course, and a Women’s Health weekend.

2009 found the PAANZ Executive updating the PAANZ Logo, developing a website, and creating education opportunities for other like minded therapists. Thus introducing a Trigger Point/Dry needling sub-group to enable physiotherapists who have done short courses in Trigger Point Needling to participate in ongoing safety and competency courses and offering Chiropractors, Nurses and Osteopaths who have completed a Certificate in Acupuncture from a relevant University to attend PAANZ run courses.