Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people aged 65 years and older. Several different parts are available. Medicare does cover some aspects of chiropractic care, including spinal manipulations for back pain.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, around 80%of people experience back pain at some point in their lives.

People use chiropractic treatments to help relieve musculoskeletalproblems, including back, neck, and joint pain. Trainedchiropractors can also treat some headaches.

Although chiropractic treatment may be effective forrelieving specific pains, some chiropractors have made unsubstantiated claimsabout the benefits of the practice for non-musculoskeletal conditions. However,a2016 article set out a list of ways to improve the scientificstanding of chiropractic treatment.

Most chiropractors have since abandoned the idea thatspinal manipulation can help treat conditions with no link to the spine.

This article explains which chiropractic services Medicarecovers, as well as some other Medicare-funded treatments for back pain.

a woman having chiropractic treatment which is covered by medicareShare on Pinterest
Medicare may cover chiropractic manipulation if a person experiences back pain.

Medicare covers chiropractic manipulation of the spine tohelp a person manage back pain.

A person must have active back pain to qualify for Medicarereimbursement. A chiropractor cannot provide spinal manipulations as amaintenance or preventive service. Medicare will only fund chiropractic carethat corrects an existing problem.

Although Medicare will pay for certainchiropractic services, it does not cover massage therapy or X-rays.

If a chiropractor offers or recommends any of theseservices, a person should ask about the cost of each, as they will need to fundthe treatment themselves. That said, Medicare will pay for a physician toperform an X-ray. This could indicate that a referral to a chiropractor ismedically necessary.

Medicare Part B covers some aspects of chiropractic care. PartB is the portion that helps people pay for doctors’ visits and some relatedtreatments.

Once a person meets their yearly deductible, Medicare will usuallyfund 80% of the cost for chiropractic treatment.

Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, is an alternativeto traditional Medicare. Private health insurance companies offer these plans.Some plans may include greater coverage for chiropractic treatments thanothers.

However, the level of coverage depends on the plansavailable in a person’s geographical area.

A person with Medicare Advantage may also be part of a plancalled a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization.These plans require the selection of an in-network healthcare provider toreceive full reimbursement.

A person may need to check that a chiropractor is in theirnetwork before seeking treatment with them.

Medicare supplement, or Medigap, plans may also cover copaymentsfor chiropractic care. People with traditional Medicare may purchase theseplans, while those with Medicare Advantage cannot.

In the United States, chiropractors see an estimated 35 millionpeople every year, according to the American ChiropracticAssociation. Chiropractic care serves as an alternative to other treatmentoptions for pain and discomfort, such as surgery or pain medications.

Some conditions a chiropractor can treat include thefollowing:

  • back pain
  • conditions affecting the joints,ligaments, and muscles
  • headaches
  • neck pain

In addition to these services, a chiropractormay offer wellness services. Examples include diet, exercise, and nutrition.

Doctors can treat back pain with various medical treatmentsand some alternative therapies. These include:

  • Acupuncture:Acupuncture refers to the insertion of small, thin needles into the body torestore energy flow and reduce pain. In January 2020, the Centersfor Medicare & Medicaid Services announcedthat Medicare would cover acupuncture to treat chronic low back pain. Medicarewill cover up to 12 sessions over 90 days, with a potential eight additionalsessions if symptoms are improving.
  • Massage:Medicare does not currently cover massage therapy services. A person isresponsible for 100% of the costs for massage therapy for back pain.
  • Physical therapy:Physical therapy involves the use of exercises to strengthen and stretch theback and treat back pain. Medicare Part B covers any physical therapy service adoctor recommends to treat back pain. A person is responsible for 20% of theMedicare-approved amount up to their deductible for treatments.

It is important to note that coverage for Medicare changesfrequently and often expands to include more treatments. The Medicare websitehas a usefultool that people can use to search for a particular serviceto determine whether or not Medicare covers it.

Chiropractic care can help reduce symptoms in some peoplewho experience back pain. Medicare will cover the treatments if a person has activeback pain and shows improvement over time.

If a person has a Medicare Advantage plan, they may requirea referral from a doctor. Alternatively, they may need to select an in-networkdoctor to receive treatments.

As of January 2020, Medicare funds up to 12 sessions ofacupuncture, with the option to extend the course of treatment by eightsessions if the treatment is successfully reducing back pain.