After 36 years in private practice, I have seen Alternative Medicine enter the mainstream. Years ago, if you told your medical doctor that you were seeing a doctor of chiropractic or an acupuncturist for treatment, many of them would comment negatively or, at a minimum, look at you askew.
And insurance coverage? Forget about it. If you wanted those strange “alternative” treatments, you had to fork over your hard-earned cash. Insurance reimbursement was reserved solely for pills, potions, and surgery.
But as Bob Dylan sang, “the times, they are a-changing.” Almost every major insurance company now routinely covers chiropractic care. Medical physicians are now referring directly to Alternative Medicine practitioners for a wide variety of nontraditional treatments.
In January of 2017, the Veterans Administration rolled out an experimental one-year program to offer a variety of treatments to veterans. These treatments included acupuncture, chiropractic, hypnosis, pain counseling, massage, and certain other alternatives to the basic services offered to date. After a period of evaluation, it was determined that some of these services helped patients while others offered little benefit. Both acupuncture and chiropractic services demonstrated significant benefits to veterans and were added to the list of covered services. For the first time, a veteran could opt for Alternative Medicine treatments for pain, failed spine surgery, PTSD, anxiety, depression, migraines, back pain, and a host of other conditions!
The government quickly saw the value in treating chronic pain this way. The narcotic prescription epidemic sweeping America was simply devastating populations of people with chronic pain. America was crying out for a new way to treat pain.
Soon Ohio Medicaid programs were required to include new coverage for acupuncture and expanded coverage for chiropractic. Patients served by Caresource, Molina Health, Paramount Advantage, United HealthCare, and Buckeye Health now all have direct access to acupuncture and chiropractic by any participating doctor. Regular insurance plans such as Aetna, Flex spending accounts, and HNA accounts also can be used for chiropractic or acupuncture.
Treating chronic pain with strong pain medications is a slippery slope. Pain medications do not treat the problem but merely mask the symptoms. Over time, the body develops a tolerance for strong pain meds. The body then requires progressively higher dosages to achieve the same level of pain relief. This does not even include the secondary side effects of taking these types of medications long term.
And acupuncture isn’t just for humans anymore. Veterinarians at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., recently treated Panda Tian Tian with acupuncture for muscle loss and a sore shoulder
It might be time to consider a healthier approach. Alternative Medicine is safe and effective and may be an avenue worth exploring for those with chronic pain or addictions.❦