Join AARP's Live Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall at 1 p.m. ET Thursday. Learn more.
En español | Original Medicare covers acupuncture only for enrollees with chronic low back pain. If you have had low back pain for at least 12 weeks, and the pain is not associated with another cause (such as an infectious disease, surgery or pregnancy), you are entitled to 12 acupuncture sessions in a 90-day period.
Medicare may pay for additional sessions if your pain decreases — up to eight more, to a maximum of 20 in a year. If your condition does not improve, Medicare will not pay for acupuncture beyond 12 visits.
The provider can be a doctor who meets applicable state requirements to perform acupuncture, or a physician assistant, nurse practitioner or other personnel if they have a master's or doctoral-level degree in acupuncture or Oriental medicine from an accredited school and a state license to practice it.
Acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body, usually by inserting thin needles through the skin, to alleviate pain. Until January 2020, Medicare did not cover it in any circumstances, and you will still pay 100 percent of the cost of acupuncture to address conditions other than low back pain. Medicare does not cover other forms of alternative medicine, such as naturopathy, homeopathy or — except for medically necessary spinal manipulation — chiropractic care.
Medicare Advantage private insurance plans may include broader coverage for acupuncture. Check with your Medicare Advantage plan provider about specific treatments. You likely will need to use an acupuncturist who is in your plan’s network to take full advantage of this benefit.
Editor's note: This article, originally published on October 24, 2019, has been updated to reflect changes in Medicare's policy on acupunture.
Return to Medicare Q&A main page
Find the content you are looking for by entering in search terms below.
Enter address, city, state, or ZIP code.
Driver Safety (0)
Tax Aide (0)
Entertainment & Dining (0)
Healthcare & Insurance (0)
Financial Services & Insurance (0)
Member Local Offers (0)
Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at