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The future for Acupuncture and Medicare is happening right now

Many patients over the years have asked if Medicare covers acupuncture, and to this point, the answer has always been no. Now some medicare patients pay for secondary insurance such as United or Humana which will cover acupuncture, however not every medicare patient has access to those policies.

Now a new policy change is going to allow for acupuncture to be studied in the medicare community for patients that have chronic low back pain. The government wants to finally study on a trial basis whether or not patients benefit from acupuncture for chronic low back pain to see if it can be a viable tool to help combat the opioid crisis and over prescription of medication to many patients. It’s reported that low back pain in the medicare population is one of the biggest reasons for excessive opioid prescriptions, so utilizing acupuncture should be able to bring that usage down significantly.

Currently, the only patients that are going to be covered are patients that are enrolled in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institute of Health but in the future, the implications are that if things go well, they would open up the use of acupuncture to most/all medicare patients for the treatment of chronic low back pain, and potentially more in the future.

There is no telling how long this will all take to study and make a determination on, but it could be a quick process or may take years from this point going forward. Hopefully however they will make a quick determination one way or another.

Click the link below to go directly to the press release regarding the new policy, and I will keep you updated on any changes or progress that is being made.

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-proposes-cover-acupuncture-chronic-low-back-pain-medicare-beneficiaries-enrolled-approved

And if you have any questions about acupuncture and your insurance, or with medicare, or your medicare supplemental insurance, feel free to call me at (360) 892-4355 or email me at [email protected]

All the best,

Michael

Beat that summer heat!

Summer time is here, and like any good pacific north westerner, we have to get outside and enjoy as much of that beautiful sunshine as we can before it’s gone. Here are a few thoughts to remember when spending more time out doors.

Make sure that you protect and take care of your skin every day. That includes moisturizing daily as well as applying sun screen when you are going to be out in the sun for a while. I do recommend spending at least 10 minutes out doors without sun screen on though so you can absorb that great vitamin D. But after about 10-15 minutes, make sure you put on sunscreen so you don’t burn.

This also hold true for your eyes. When it’s very sunny outside, make sure you have sunglasses to protect your eyes from any potential damage that the sun’s UV rays may cause.

Staying hydrated is an absolute must. Most of us don’t get nearly enough water on a daily basis. The old adage of 8 cups a day of water is still a pretty good rule to follow for the most part. However, if you are outside all day or running around/playing sports/exercising, you will most likely require more water than just the standard 8 cups. Drinking up to a gallon of water can be good if you are out side sweating a lot or playing sports in the summer heat. Just remember, when you feel thirsty or your tongue feels dry, it means your body is already in a state of dehydration which can be dangerous.

And since you typically be more active in the summer, if you do get injured, or tweak a muscle from all the fun you are having, remember that acupuncture can be a helpful tool in speeding up your recovery post injury. The goal is always to get you back to 100% as fast as possible, and acupuncture is a great way to help promote blood flow, decrease inflammation, and diminish pain so that you can begin moving more freely and start rehabbing the injury quicker.

If you have any questions, now is a great time to reach out and call me or email me with anything you might want to know. Feel free to email me at [email protected] or call me at (360) 892-4355. Or if you are ready to schedule an appointment, we can get you scheduled in at your earliest convenience.

Have a great and healthy summer,

Michael

My Doctor Said I Need to Exercise, But What Does That Mean?

Recently, I have been told by a lot of my patients that their primary care physician or other doctors in the past have told them that they need to exercise more, whether it was for weight loss, diabetes, low back pain, it really doesn’t seem to matter, they just like to tell patients to exercise more.  It seems like it’s a common thing for patients to hear from their doctors, but rarely if ever does it seem like their doctor has the time or the knowledge to expand on that general “you need to exercise more” statement. 

When they tell you to exercise, do they mean go for a slow walk, do they mean go for a jog/run, are they talking about a strenuous weight training routine?  What about swimming?  Yoga?  Water aerobics?  Zumba?  Does it even matter at this point?  The simple answer is, yes, it does matter. 

There isn’t just one blanket exercise that is appropriate for everybody, because everybody is in a different place in life, and we all have different levels of fitness or activities that we can do. Also, we need to have defined goals in mind.  Is the goal to lose 50 pounds, or to gain core strength in your low back and knees?  Is your goal purely for cardiovascular heart health, or is it to look better in a swimsuit?  Or maybe it’s to gain strength and energy so you can play with your kids/grandkids.  All of these would lead to different exercise advice for each situation.

For example, if you are 55 years old, significantly over weight, and sedentary in your day to day life, telling you to go to the gym, do a bunch of intense weight training with squats, bench press, deadlifts, etc. wouldn’t be the best advice, in actuality, that wouldn’t even be good advice.  For someone in that situation, getting started with a simple walking routine would be a better place to start.

But then we get to the question, what do you mean by a walking routine?  How fast, how long, how frequent are all factors to consider with each individual.  Walking casually around the block slowly, while better than absolutely nothing, isn’t very effective for people unless they are forced to use walkers to move around on a daily basis.  When walking is to be utilized for exercise, typically the standard is to do 3-4 days per week walking for 20-40 minutes per walking session at a speed that is a challenge but not overly difficult.  The pace at which you walk will very from person to person, that’s why you won’t be told to simply walk at 3.0 MPH on a treadmill or any specific speed like that.  Typically, they tell you to walk at a pace that will make it difficult to carry a conversation with somebody.  What that means is, if you were walking with a friend, you could still talk with them, but it would be a bit labored.  You would sometimes have to take deep breaths between your walking and talking.  If you can walk and talk perfectly with no effort, that probably means you’re not walking fast enough. 

That’s just one example of what it could mean to exercise according to your doctor.  Other situations could be doing yoga twice a week to work on core strength and flexibility.  Sometimes weight training is necessary to build strength so you can lift your kids or grand kids.  Maybe you want to work your way up to the weight training, but need to start with water aerobics just to get started with exercising.  And not to mention, none of this included possible changes in diet and nutrition, but that’s a discussion for another day.

So, as you can see, there is a myriad of protocols that are all considered under the umbrella of “exercise more.”  And finding the right protocol for you might be frustrating to figure out unless you have a history with fitness and exercise.  I can see why my patients are frustrated by the lack of direction from their doctors regarding exercise.  And to be honest, I can understand why the doctors don’t delve into it too much, there is a lot of information to disseminate to each patient, and to create a perfect program for each individual patient would take too long and wouldn’t be feasible for them to do.  And quite frankly, doctors aren’t personal trainers, they don’t typically know the right ways to exercise or what is appropriate for each individual.

However, one of the things that I take pride in, is taking time to talk to each patient about different exercise routines and what might be appropriate for them based on their own personal goals and current situation.  I can help talk you through a simple program/protocol to get started in your health goals to help you get to where ever you want to be.  Whether you want to run a marathon, or just want to be able to play with your kids easier, it’s all about matching the right exercise with the right situation.  And utilizing acupuncture along with the exercise is an amazing way to keep your body moving in the right direction, and a great way to keep your body healthy and pain free while you are working on your fitness. 

If you have any questions, feel free to give me a call at (360) 892-4355 or email me at micha[email protected] and we can schedule an appointment for you to begin working with you utilizing acupuncture and exercise to see if we can get you moving towards the best you possible. 

Michael