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Does Medicare Cover Acupuncture?

What does Medicare cover for acupuncture? Discover your coverage benefits and other alternatives services. Learn more!

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If you’re 65 years or older and suffering from low back pain, you're not alone . Low back pain is actually the most common health issue in this age group that could cause chronic pain or even disability. In fact, it’s so prevalent, Medicare covers acupuncture as a treatment — but only for those with diagnosed chronic low back pain.

Low back pain that lasts three months or longer is considered chronic and can be treated a few different ways, the most invasive of which is surgery. However, there are other options , and acupuncture — where practitioners stimulate “trigger points” with thin needles on the skin — can be helpful to relieve the pain and discomfort caused by the chronic pain.

Medicare Part B covers up to 12 acupuncture visits in 90 days for chronic low back pain. If acupuncture treatment helps your pain, Medicare can cover eight additional sessions. In all, you’re able to get up to 20 acupuncture treatments per year. 

In order to receive acupuncture coverage through Medicare, your provider must have the appropriate degree and possess a current license to practice in your state.

An Alternative to Acupuncture

As many as 25% of adults have a fear of needles, so it’s understandable if you’re a bit apprehensive about acupuncture. By most accounts , people typically feel no pain when acupuncture needles are inserted. The needles are very thin and are not placed deep within the skin.

However, if acupuncture needles are enough to put you off, or maybe you have pain in other areas than your low back, you can find a Medicare-covered alternative for some relief. For example, physical therapy and chiropractic are two services that are covered by Medicare to help relieve chronic low back pain.

Of course, there are lifestyle modifications you can always make — like meditating, changing your diet, taking more frequent breaks and stretching — that can help alleviate chronic pain, too.

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The above is meant to be strictly educational and not intended to provide medical advice or solicit the sales of an insurance product or service of any kind.