By the time most people enter the age of Medicare coverage, they’ve had some type of lumbar pain.
Medicare beneficiaries experiencing lower back pain need to know what treatments and pain management therapies are allowable.
The cause of the back pain determines a patients eligibility for treatments and pain management therapies.
There are many treatment options including:
- Physical Therapy
- Chiropractic Treatments
- Injection Based Treatments
- Surgical Intervention
Common Conditions of Lower Back Pain
Most people have heard the term “Sciatica” at some point.
Did you know this term incorrectly explains lower back pain? Only those experiencing pain stemming from the Sacroiliac joint, or SIJ, have true Sciatica.
The SIJ joint connects your hip to your spine. When the SIJ becomes inflamed from irritation or Arthritis, it causes Sciatic pain.
The outer portion of the vertebral disc contains the cushioning between the vertebral bodies of the spine.
When there is a tear in the outer portion of the vertebral disc that known as a disc herniation.
This tear causes the inside, or the nucleus, to extrude through its fibers at a certain level. Although, this condition can replicate Sciatic pain.
Well, Lumbar Stenosis is in the category of Arthritis. It could also be the narrowing of the spaces within the spine. This condition affects the surrounding nerves which then, in turn, can also replicate Sciatic pain.
Facet Joint Arthropathy
The Facets are the joints extending from the spine that provide support and allow movement. Facet Joint Arthropathy refers to the degenerative disease that breaks down the cartilage around these joints.
Other common terms for Facet Joint Arthropathy is Facet Joint Arthrosis or Facet Joint Osteoarthritis.
Lumbar Spondylolisthesis is the movement or slipping, of the vertebral body. This can cause both pain and compression of the nerve, which can also mimic Sciatic pain.
Interventional Pain Management for Lower Back Pain
Interventional Pain Management is to proceed with conservative treatments vs surgical invention. However, managing the symptoms can help to avoid more invasive treatment methods.
There are two types of pain management physicians:
- Non-interventional: those willing to mask the pain with strong opioid pain medications
- Interventional: those whose sole purpose is to help patients relieve their pain beyond medication
Why Avoid Surgical Intervention
While some individuals may require surgery, others consider it a last resort for many reasons. There’s no guarantee that surgery will provide pain relief. Unless an Orthopedic or Neurosurgeon can guarantee you over 50% improvement, you want to avoid surgery at all costs.
Additionally, with any surgery including the lumbar spine, there’s always the risk of complications or worsening of the original condition. You really want to consider surgery as a very last resort. Meaning you have tried and failed all conservative treatments, including Interventional Pain Management.
Medicare Guidelines for Pain Management Injections
Per the typical Medicare guidelines, cortisone injections without needing prior authorization usually have coverage. Also, different injections have different costs.
Make sure to ask your medical provider what the Medicare allowable are for each procedure.
However, Medicare only covers 80% of approved medical services. Leaving the remaining 20% up to the beneficiary to pay. Beneficiaries pay out of pocket costs such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.
That’s why Medicare secondary insurance, or a Medigap Plan, is crucial for those with lower back pain issues. Undergoing Interventional or Non-Interventional Pain Management treatments, Medicare Supplement insurance protects you financially.
There are many different types of injections for treatment for those with either chronic or acute conditions.
Types of Pain Management Injections
- SIJ Injections: These are therapeutic injections where cortisone goes directly into the joint through injection.
- Lumbar Facet Injections: These are therapeutic injections where cortisone goes directly into the joints from an injection.
- Lumbar Medial Branch Blocks: Diagnostic procedure in which Lidocaine “tests” the joints nerve endings verifying one responds with pain relief. Physicians hit the correct nerve when the patient feels relief; making them a candidate for a Radiofrequency Ablation.
- Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA: Therapeutic procedure where nerve findings come from the Medial Branch Blocks (or MBB’s); these nerves then receive cauterization for long-lasting relief.
- Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection: Therapeutic injection where cortisone goes around the hurt disc and nerve endings for pain relief.
Does Medicare Cover Radiofrequency Ablation
When a procedure is medically necessary because of a practicing physician said it’s necessary, Medicare will likely cover the treatment. You may need to prove that other methods weren’t successful to receive coverage for this treatment.
You may be responsible for a copayment, deductible, or coinsurance. Also, advantage plan recipients will have different costs.
How do Cortisone Steroid Injections Help with Lower Back Pain
Cortisone is a strong synthetic anti-inflammatory that goes into a specific area of the body.
Also, It helps reduce inflammation, which in turn helps to decrease pain.
For more help on how to beat back pain, you can check out 53 Health & Fitness Experts Tips where 53 experts, including us, share top tips.
How Many Cortisone Shots Will Medicare Cover
Cortisone shots can help treat inflammation. Although, if a cortisone injection doesn’t help a problem for a sustainable period of time, it likely won’t be effective at all.
Repeat injections could cause damage to the body over time. Most orthopedic surgeons suggest no more than 3 cortisone shots annually.
Does Medicare Cover Epidural Steroid Injections
Medicare covers 80% of medical services that have approval. If something is medically necessary, Medicare will usually cover it. However, some requirements must be met for the coverage to activate.
Such as the reason for pain and unresponsiveness to other treatments. If the pain isn’t related to sciatica or radicular pain, the injections are less effective and not necessary.
How Many Epidurals Does Medicare Allow in a Year
Medicare has specific requirements for Epidural Steroid Injections (ESI). However, the injections must be medically necessary to relieve pain.
Six or more weeks of conservative therapy needs to fail and the patient must complete physical therapy (or some form with documentation). Also, the Patient must complete systemic analgesics, muscle relaxants, and activity modification.
An MRI or CT image study needs to be done to confirm no tumor or another space-occupying lesion is the cause of pain. A physical exam should confirm consistent radicular pain.
The patient can’t have non-specific pain or failed back syndrome.
No more than 2 levels can be injected during the same session for transforaminal epidural injections. Also, ESI with ultrasound guidance won’t have coverage.
The requirements for continuing epidural injections as well as facet joint injections are different.
Does Medicare Cover Facet Joint Injections
The procedure must be medically necessary for back or neck pain when facet joint syndrome could be suspected. The request should be for 1 or more of the following:
- Diagnostic facet injections
- Therapeutic or repeat injections
- Trigger point injections
- Sacroiliac joint injections
- Repeat Sacroiliac injections
For each, certain criteria must be met.
Does Medicare Cover Physical Therapy for Back Pain
This depends on where you get your services. Part B will generally pay for your physical therapy services if received in an outpatient setting. However, it only covers 80%, so you’ll need a Medigap plan to get the remaining 20% covered.
If you need physical therapy at home, your home health benefits under both Part A & B may cover 100% of the costs.
Where to Get Medicare Help with Lower Back Pain Management Costs
The benefits of a Medicare Supplement/Medigap plan varies, depending on which letter plan you choose. Also, you can compare the top two Medigap plans, Plan F vs Plan G here.
We can help guide you to find the best plan possible for all your individual needs. Click or call today, our agents are here to help and our services are 100% free.