OT And Acupuncture

Occupational Therapy Acupuncture
Combination Therapy

OT And Acupuncture Go Hand In Hand

Eddy Mowbray didn’t 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 couldn’t 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.

However, at 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: acupuncture.

Spiking Interest

“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!”

Using acupuncture for pain intervention, Barnes was able to maximize Mowbray’s progress in OT.

“Even though they’re very distinctive ways of pursuing a solution, I’ve 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 isn’t possible. “Acupuncture isn’t a home run in every case, but it’s 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 Haystack

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 acupuncture’s 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 multiple levels.

“Adding acupuncture to your resume isn’t 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 master’s 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.”

Although practitioners 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.

“Most people 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.”

Putting the Needle on the Record
Who has to pick up the tab for acupuncture services? Administrators agree that it’s usually contingent upon the provider. According to Huffman, most plans cover occupational therapy, and more are starting to accept acupuncture as a reimbursable modality.

“More insurance 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, it’s a tip of the hat to the effectiveness of the therapy.

“The majority 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.”

“OT and 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 patient’s comfort, neuroplasticity, and ability to heal.”

Ceri Usmar is a medical writer for the Gannett Healthcare Group.

Article Link:http://news.todayinot.com/article/20090831/TODAYINOT010302/90828010

To schedule an Annapolis Acupuncture, 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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Sheri Barnes
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1610 West Street, Suite 201
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Telephone: 443-924-6363