Medicare Acupuncture

A type of acupuncture treatment covered by Medicare for certain conditions.


Medicare Acupuncture refers to acupuncture treatments that are covered by Medicare, the U.S. federal health insurance program, for specific medical conditions. This coverage is relatively new, having been introduced in 2020. Medicare covers up to 12 acupuncture sessions over 90 days for chronic low back pain, with an additional 8 sessions if the patient shows improvement. The acupuncture must be performed by a licensed acupuncturist or another healthcare provider with acupuncture training and licensure.

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Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice, has been used for thousands of years to treat various health conditions. It involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate healing and relieve pain. In the United States, acupuncture gained popularity in the 1970s and has since been increasingly accepted as a complementary therapy. In January 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare would cover acupuncture for chronic low back pain, marking a significant milestone in the recognition of acupuncture as a legitimate medical treatment.


  1. Pain Relief Acupuncture can effectively reduce chronic low back pain, which is the primary condition covered by Medicare.
  2. Reduced Opioid Use By providing an alternative pain management option, acupuncture may help reduce the reliance on opioid medications for chronic pain.
  3. Improved Function Acupuncture may improve physical function and mobility in patients with chronic low back pain.
  4. Complementary Therapy Acupuncture can be used alongside other medical treatments, offering a holistic approach to pain management.
  5. Increased Accessibility Medicare coverage makes acupuncture more accessible and affordable for beneficiaries with chronic low back pain.
  6. Non-Invasive Treatment Acupuncture is a minimally invasive treatment option, with few side effects compared to some conventional pain management techniques.

How It Works

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate healing and relieve pain. The theory behind acupuncture is that it helps balance the flow of energy or life force, known as qi or chi, through pathways in the body called meridians. By stimulating these points, acupuncture is believed to promote the body's natural healing processes and restore balance. Medicare coverage for acupuncture is limited to treating chronic low back pain, and patients must meet specific criteria to be eligible for coverage.


While Medicare covers acupuncture for chronic low back pain, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Patients must have had low back pain for at least 12 weeks and have tried other treatments without success. Additionally, Medicare will only cover up to 12 acupuncture sessions in 90 days, with an additional 8 sessions if the patient shows improvement. It's important to find a licensed acupuncturist who participates in Medicare to ensure coverage. Patients should also be aware that they may be responsible for a portion of the cost, such as a copayment or coinsurance.

How Much It Costs

The cost of acupuncture treatments can vary depending on factors such as the provider, location, and duration of the session. Without insurance, a single session can range from $50 to $150. With Medicare coverage, patients may be responsible for a 20% coinsurance payment, which could range from $10 to $30 per session. It's important to check with your Medicare plan and acupuncturist to determine your specific costs.

Virtual & Online Options

While some acupuncturists may offer virtual consultations or telemedicine services, the actual acupuncture treatment must be performed in person. Virtual options may be helpful for initial consultations, discussing treatment plans, or follow-up appointments. However, to receive Medicare coverage for acupuncture, patients will need to visit a licensed acupuncturist in person. Searching for 'Medicare acupuncture near me' can help patients find local providers who participate in Medicare and offer the covered services for chronic low back pain.


To be eligible for Medicare reimbursement, acupuncturists must meet certain qualifications. They must have a master's or doctoral-level degree in acupuncture or Oriental Medicine from an accredited school, and be licensed by the state in which they practice. Additionally, they must have a current certification in acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). This certification demonstrates that the practitioner has met national standards for education, training, and competency in acupuncture.

Complementary Practices

Some complementary practices that can synergize well with Medicare Acupuncture include massage therapy, yoga, tai chi, herbal medicine, dietary changes, and stress reduction techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises. These practices can enhance the overall effectiveness of acupuncture treatments by promoting relaxation, reducing pain and inflammation, and improving overall well-being.

Practitioner Types

The primary practitioners involved with Medicare Acupuncture are licensed acupuncturists who have completed extensive training in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and have met state licensing requirements. In some cases, medical doctors (MDs), doctors of osteopathy (DOs), and chiropractors who have received additional training in acupuncture may also offer this treatment. Nurses, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals may assist in providing supportive care.

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  • Q: Is Medicare Acupuncture covered by insurance?

    • A: Medicare Part B covers acupuncture for chronic low back pain under certain conditions. Patients must receive treatment from a licensed acupuncturist or a healthcare provider with acupuncture training and licenses. Coverage is limited to 12 sessions over 90 days, with an additional 8 sessions if improvement is shown.
  • Q: How effective is acupuncture for managing chronic pain?

    • A: Research has shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for various types of chronic pain, including lower back pain, neck pain, knee pain from osteoarthritis, and headaches. Acupuncture works by stimulating specific points on the body to release endorphins, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
  • Q: What should I expect during a Medicare Acupuncture session?

    • A: During a Medicare Acupuncture session, the practitioner will insert fine, sterile needles into specific points on your body. You may feel a slight pinch or tingling sensation when the needles are inserted. Most people find the treatment to be relaxing and experience minimal discomfort. Sessions typically last 20-60 minutes.
  • Q: Are there any side effects associated with Medicare Acupuncture?

    • A: Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a trained and licensed practitioner. Minor side effects may include bruising, soreness, or slight bleeding at the needle sites. Serious complications are rare. Always inform your practitioner of any pre-existing health conditions or medications you are taking.
  • Q: How many Medicare Acupuncture sessions will I need to see results?

    • A: The number of acupuncture sessions needed varies depending on the individual and the condition being treated. Some people may experience relief after just a few sessions, while others may require more treatments. Medicare coverage allows for up to 12 sessions over 90 days, with an additional 8 sessions if improvement is demonstrated.


Medicare Acupuncture is a valuable treatment option for those seeking relief from chronic low back pain. By stimulating specific points on the body, acupuncture can help reduce pain, inflammation, and promote overall healing. When combined with complementary practices like massage therapy, yoga, and stress reduction techniques, the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments can be enhanced. It is essential to seek treatment from a licensed acupuncturist or healthcare provider with proper training to ensure safe and effective care. With Medicare Part B coverage available for eligible patients, more people can now access this ancient healing practice to manage their chronic pain and improve their quality of life.