Oregon Will Fund Alternative Pain Treatments for Patients with Medicaid

Oregon will fund many alternative pain treatments for patients covered by the state’s version of Medicaid starting in January, NPR reports. The state hopes to reduce the number of people who become addicted to opioids or abuse them.

Medicaid traditionally has dealt with back pain through bed rest and prescription painkillers, according to Denise Taray, Coordinator of the Oregon Pain Management Commission. “The only thing that might have been covered in the past was narcotics,” she said. “But treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, physical therapy and rehab would never have been covered.”

Taray says pain pills aren’t always as effective as people think. “Research is out there that suggests that with back conditions we’re spending a lot of money on health care treatments and services that aren’t improving outcomes,” she said. While Oregon has not found overwhelming evidence that alternative treatment such as yoga or acupuncture are more effective than other treatments, at least they don’t involve drugs, she said.

About one-fourth of Oregonians received an opioid prescription in 2012, the article notes. The state leads the nation in nonmedical use of opioids. About one-third of hospitalizations related to drug abuse in the state are due to opioid use.

“There should be an array of things for people to choose from, whether it be chiropractic care, or naturopathic care, or acupuncture, nutrition, massage,” said David Eisen, Executive Director of the Quest Center for Integrative Health, a pain management center in Portland. “Try those things — and if they don’t work, you use opioids as a last resort.”

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    September 22, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    This is an interesting idea. Addiction is often just a cover for physical or emotional pain. Offering other options, even if unproven, may help reduce the underlying problem. Pain is not well understood. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. There is nothing wrong with opiates, if they work for you. It will not lead to ‘addiction’, just lock up your pills when undisciplined young people are around.

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