OT And Acupuncture Go Hand In Hand
Mowbray didnt know where else to turn. His chronic back pain
could not be treated surgically and its severity increased so much
as the day progressed that he couldnt wait to go to sleep.
No longer able to sit long enough to read, much less work around
the house, he was an ideal candidate for occupational therapy.
his first appointment with Sheri Barnes,
OTR/L, MAc, an occupational therapist, massage therapist, and acupuncturist
in Annapolis, Md., the pain was too severe for even rudimentary
OT. Fortunately for Mowbray, Barnes had the perfect workaround:
We did acupuncture on his first visit, but when he came back
the next week he told me he was still in pain, Barnes recalls.
I started to feel disappointed until he mentioned that he
had been vacuuming and had also shoveled his own driveway and those
of two neighbors; and I realized that activity was actually the
source of his pain!
for pain intervention, Barnes was able to maximize Mowbrays
progress in OT.
though theyre very distinctive ways of pursuing a solution,
Ive always felt intuitively that these two particular therapies
complement each other, says Barnes, who frequently encounters
people who are in so much pain that physical modification just isnt
possible. Acupuncture isnt a home run in every case,
but its helpful to have; I can put on my OT hat to assess
the patient and then my acupuncturist hat to find and fix disharmony
to pave the way for their body to heal.
Needle in the
As intuitive as the acupuncture-OT combination may sound, it is
in fact relatively rare. For starters, acupuncture is still considered
alternative compared with the scientific and academic
lines along which OTs continuing education usually runs. And
yet, there is significant science behind the study and practice
of acupuncture. The World Health Organization recognizes acupunctures
effectiveness in treating acute and chronic musculoskeletal, neurological,
respiratory, and circulatory problems, which many OTs treat, not
to mention the emotional and psychological issues that often go
along with them.
The idea that
acupuncture is simply about sticking patients with needles is a
common misconception. Heat, laser, acupressure, and beads also are
used. Acupuncture is about understanding and helping a patient on
acupuncture to your resume isnt as simple as taking a few
continuing education classes and thinking you can treat the complex
acupuncture cases OTs are likely to encounter, says Malina
Chin, OTR/L, MSOM, LAc, an OT and acupuncturist at Vital Points
Therapy in Libertyville, Ill. Not only is a four-year masters
degree program required, but acupuncturists must also pass a national
board test and be certified by the National Certification Commission
for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. In addition, a license is
required in most states.
such as Barnes and Chin routinely can work acupuncture into an OT
plan, most often acupuncture is the last thing to be considered,
if it is thought about at all. Sometimes primary care physicians
refer patients, or therapists might try it as a last resort for
a patient whose progress has plateaued. When a practice offers OT,
PT, and acupuncture services, then acupuncture can be automatically
included in the therapeutic arsenal.
come in for one service and then find out about the other,
says Marcie Huffman, the billing administrator at the Center for
Occupational and Environmental Neurology, in Lutherville, Md., who
also handles insurance claims for Barnes. A lot of people
have heard about the benefits of acupuncture and are very interested
when they find out that the same person can perform both services.
Needle on the Record
Who has to pick up the tab for acupuncture services? Administrators
agree that its usually contingent upon the provider. According
to Huffman, most plans cover occupational therapy, and more are
starting to accept acupuncture as a reimbursable modality.
providers are covering alternative care, although Medicare still
considers acupuncture experimental and hence does not cover it,
says Rebecca Jacobson, the office manager for Integrated PT, in
Klamath Falls, Ore. Work-comp and automobile accident insurances
will pay for acupuncture treatments, and many Blue Cross and private
health insurance plans cover 80% to 100% with a small copay.
When insurance companies are prepared to reimburse for a treatment
such as acupuncture, its a tip of the hat to the effectiveness
of the therapy.
of our clients are physical therapy patients, and many of them get
acupuncture as part of their treatment plan, Jacobson says.
Therapists often report that these patients obtain a faster
and more complete recovery from biomechanical dysfunctions, particularly
if they were incurred in motor vehicle or other traumatic accidents.
acupuncture complement each other because they are both holistic
and integrative approaches to health and wellness, Chin says.
An OT trained as an acupuncturist has multiple avenues to
improve the patients comfort, neuroplasticity, and ability
Ceri Usmar is
a medical writer for the Gannett Healthcare Group.
schedule an Annapolis
Massage or Occupational
Therapy appointment with
Sheri Barnes, please use the
online contact form on this web site or contact Sheri
by telephone at 443-924-6363.
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