Insurers Aren’t Promoting Alternatives to Opioids Enough for Back Pain: Study

back pain

Private and public insurers aren’t doing enough to promote alternatives to opioids for back pain, according to a new study.

Insurers often provide little or no coverage for evidence-backed treatments for chronic pain, such as acupuncture or psychological counseling, the researchers report in JAMA Network Open.

“This study reveals an important opportunity for insurers to broaden and standardize their coverage of non-drug pain treatments to encourage their use as safer alternatives to opioids,” study senior author Caleb Alexander, MD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a news release.

The study examined 15 Medicaid, 15 Medicare Advantage and 15 major commercial insurer plans for 2017 covering non-drug treatments for lower back pain. Almost all of the plans covered physical and occupational therapy, but two-thirds did not cover acupuncture, Reuters reports. Only three of 15 Medicaid plans covered psychological interventions for chronic pain.

Does My Child Need Opioids to Cope with Severe and Acute Pain?

The practice of medicine cannot be in a vacuum. There are instances where pain is truly severe – so severe that taking alternative pain medications to opioids will not cut it. In these instances of acute pain, the pain is expected to subside in a matter of a days. As medical practitioners, we cannot simply ignore reality and turn a blind eye to extreme pain in an acute setting.