The term “alternative medicine” is now commonly used, but chiropractic care, acupuncture, and therapeutic massage aren’t really that alternative today. Many adults and children use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to stay healthy and treat serious or long-lasting illnesses, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. It’s possible that a lot more people would use some kind of alternative or complementary treatment if their insurance pays for it. A lot of insurance companies cover some services in some situations, but not most CAM treatments. This means that patients generally have to pay for them themselves.
What Is CAM?
Complementary and alternative medicine is a term that describes therapies that you can use in addition to mainstream Western medicine. Massage, meditation, biofeedback, tai chi, reiki, music therapy, guided imagery, and dietary supplements are all examples of CAM. The differences between these approaches are mainly how doctors use them.
- Complementary medicine – Complementary treatments are used with standard medical approaches like drugs, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. It “complements” these more standard medical methods.
- Alternative medicine – As its name suggests, these treatments are used instead of traditional medicine. Things like homeopathy, herbal medicine, and chiropractic services are examples of alternative medicine.
- Integrative medicine – While this isn’t included in the CAM acronym this type of treatment is in the same category as CAM. These treatments take into account your overall health and happiness. Not just the disease or organs that are in treatment. It looks at your health from the point of view of your mind, emotions, abilities, religion, relationships, and community.
Each type might work on a different part of your health. In general, one or more of these issues may be treated with combined approaches:
- Anxiety and stress
- Mood swings
- Wound care
- General well being
- Muscle tension
Types of CAM
CAM treatments come in a lot of different forms. Here is a summary of the different types of treatments from each group, since most of them are in more than one category.
Massage uses the nerve endings and pressure spots in your body to help you relax. It comes in many types, such as shiatsu and reflexology. There are, however, five basic strokes that make up the most common type of Swedish massage. These are effleurage (slow, rhythmic gliding strokes that move blood toward the heart), petrissage (kneading, pressing, and rolling muscle groups), friction (steady pressure or tight circular movements, often used around joints), percussion (drumming hands on body), and vibration (shaking the muscle back and forth quickly). People have used massage to ease pain, lower worry and anxiety, boost their mood, and help them relax. If you’ve recently had surgery, massage can help the wounds heal faster and may even stop or lessen scars. It has been shown that massaging your feet can help with pain, nausea, and stress.
Chiropractic or Osteopathic
This is a hands-on method that focuses on your spine and other parts and how they connect to your nervous system. In these methods, you move your muscles and joints by stretching, applying light pressure, and adding force. They can help ease muscle pain and make it easier for you to move around and do things. This method can help make a number of conditions better, such as migraines, menstrual pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that uses poses and breathing techniques to help you feel better. People in India have done it for thousands of years, and now people all over the world do it too. In the West, yoga is valued more for its physical benefits than its spiritual ones. For example, it can make you more flexible and energetic, and it can help you feel less stressed and tired.
Music therapy is an expressive art form that helps people find balance and unity in their lives. Listening to music or playing music can both be part of music therapy. Music therapists are trained professionals who make music plans for people who need them. You can work through mental, spiritual, and behavioral problems by listening to music. Music therapy can help people deal with their feelings and calm down. It’s possible for music to either calm you down or wake you up.
Animal Assisted Therapy
Therapists will work with dogs or other animals to help you deal with your health problems, like cancer, heart disease, or mental illness. Therapy with animals can help with pain, anxiety, depression, and tiredness that come with a lot of health issues.
This is a way to train yourself to gain control over your feelings, thoughts, or actions. As you go through treatment, your therapist will keep track of your body’s functions. For example, EEG will record your brain waves, ECG will record your heart rate, and EMG will record muscle contractions. As you learn new ways to cope, these measurements will change.
Reiki is a type of mental healing that comes from Tibetan Buddhism over a thousand years ago. It’s meant to improve your health, keep you happy, and help you reach a higher level of awareness. Practitioners hold their hands over your dressed body and send “reiki energy” to parts of your body that need it. Reiki is said to bring the body’s energy centers, or “chakras,” back into balance and get rid of energy blocks that cause illness and discord. After treatment, some people may feel calm, while others may feel energized.
Acupuncture is an old Chinese method to treat health problems. It works by inserting very thin, solid pins into certain parts of your body to stop or treat certain illnesses. People think that acupuncture can help the body release endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can also make you feel better. In acupressure, the same acupoints are touched and pressed on. It may work the same way, but not as well.
Insurance Coverage For CAM
The trouble is that complementary and alternative therapy is usually only partially covered by insurance, if it is covered at all. About 60% of people who go to the chiropractor have insurance plans that only cover a certain number of visits. Only 25% of people who want acupuncture and 15% of people who need massage therapy have insurance coverage. It can be hard to get insurance to pay for integrative healthcare, especially after you’ve already been treated. One reason this is hard is that insurance companies can be very slow to offer coverage, even when study clearly shows a benefit. Researchers in a study published in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine said that CAM methods for chronic low back pain were not well covered, even though the American College of Physicians had suggested them.
Most state-based health programs did not take a holistic approach to treating chronic pain. It was only spinal manipulation (chiropractic or osteopathic treatment) that was covered in 46 states. Less than 10 states took care of acupuncture, neurofeedback, and massage. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, and yoga, which have all been shown to help people with chronic pain, were not talked about at all. As a general rule, you can find your policy documents online. Reading them closely is the best way to find out if your policy covers integrative medicine or other types of holistic health insurance. You could also call your insurance company to make sure they cover the treatment before you go to the doctor. The NCCIH says that you should keep careful records of all the times you talk to or write to your insurance company.
When Insurance Won’t Cover CAM
Every insurance company might not cover alternative treatments, so you may have to pay for them yourself. You can ask the provider for a cash pay rate. Some alternative care providers offer savings or a sliding scale for people who pay for their own care. If you have a health savings account (HSA), you can pay for the services with the money in it. If not, you can check with your insurance company to see if they cover alternative medicine like acupuncture and chiropractic care. Additionally, you can also look for health insurance that covers alternative care, which is another great choice. If you can’t get your current insurance company to pay for a treatment that your doctor will write a prescription for, you might want to look into other plans in your area.
There are a lot of qualified, highly trained agents at EZ.Insure who offer health insurance. We will give you your own advisor who will look into all the plans in your area and let you know which ones cover treatment with alternative medicine. Our agent will show you all the plans in your area, tell you how much they cost, and help you understand how each plan handles alternative medicine. The best part is that you won’t have to pay anything for this. We offer all of our services for free! Enter your zip code in the box below to start comparing affordable plans that cover alternative care. You can also call 877-670-3557 to talk to an EZ agent directly.