The more we hear and learn about the terrible human and social costs associated with the opioid crisis, the more health care providers are reaching to identify ways that they can become part of the solution by using safe and effective narcotic alternatives when responding to patients’ pain complaints.

This, in part, accounts for why the number of acupuncture treatments provided by MD’s, DO’s, chiropractors and licensed acupuncturists has continued to steadily increase since the early 2000s.

This expanded use and acceptance of acupuncture as a safe and reliable pain treatment alternative is closely linked to an increased number of high-quality, published, peer-reviewed studies and other reliable research, which has identified several plausible and likely scientific explanations for how and why acupuncture treatments reduce pain so effectively.

Now that the scientific evidence and explanations are more clearly understood, better-informed patients and health care providers have largely stopped asking “if and how acupuncture works,” and finally accept what acupuncture providers and their patients have long known: Acupuncture is effective for treating muscle and nerve pain.

Moreover, conditions like sciatica, lumbago, radiculopathy, neck and shoulder pain all respond positively to acupuncture treatments. This also explains why we see more private and government insurance plans now including acupuncture benefits for pain-related diagnoses.

Earlier this year, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)/Medicare initiated a National Coverage Analysis to evaluate approving use of acupuncture by Medicare providers, specifically for the treatment of low back pain; and over the summer, CMS published a Proposed Decision Memo outlining how those acupuncture treatments may be provided to Medicare-eligible patients. A final decision from CMS should be made public soon.

Contact David Bibbey, L.Ac. DOM, doctor of Oriental medicine, at Alternative Primary Care, 441 SE Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, 352-464-1645.

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