Guide to Alternative Medicine & Workers' Compensation

Published by The Klein Law Group, P.C.

WHAT IS CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE?

Conventional medicine includes surgery, drugs, and a variety of therapeutic techniques generally recognized by all or most medical and legal authorities. Conventional medicine often can cure, or at least alleviate, pain and disability. However, there are many times when your pain and physical limitations become stubborn and resistant to these traditional approaches.

WHAT IS ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE?

Alternative medicine is a variety of treatments that have in common the belief that nature itself is the great healer, and that invasive and painful approaches such as surgery and drug therapy may do more harm that good. Alternative medicine emphasizes gentle therapeutic techniques that stimulate and marshal the body's own very powerful healing forces. These techniques include massage, acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, and guided imagery. As Dr. Mehmet Oz, of the Columbia-Presbyterian Department of Complementary Care Services, has said, "The fundamental argument I have always made is that to a certain extent we can augment our own ability to heal."

ARE ALL THESE ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS AVAILABLE TO WORKERS' COMPENSATION PATIENTS?

Many alternative treatments are available to Workers' Compensation patients under the right circumstances. First, only health care professionals who have been authorized by the Chair of the Workers' Compensation Board may treat claimants. Many different kinds of treatment are allowed under the law, as long as they are provided by a practitioner recognized by the Chair. Second, authorization for treatment or tests costing over $500 must be requested of the insurance carrier, in writing. An insurance carrier denial must only be based on a physician's report. Disputes over such treatment are determined by a Law Judge, or, in the case of an appeal, by the Commissioners of the Board.

WHICH TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE TO ME AS A WORKERS' COMPENSATION PATIENT?

Under certain circumstances, an insurance carrier may agree to pay for any form of treatment. However, healing medicines that have been authorized in specific cases include massages if performed by a board-authorized care-giver, biofeedback and acupuncture

WHAT IS MASSAGE?

Although there are many different types of massage, the basic underlying principal is that massage helps to loosen muscles that have become over tensed due to chronic pain, that it stimulates increased blood flow to traumatized areas, and that it helps move toxins through the body so they can be eliminated.

WHAT IS BIOFEEDBACK?

Biofeedback allows a patient to employ his own mind as a tool for healing his body. In biofeedback, the patient is taught to send healing messages to his point of trauma. The response of his biological systems to these messages is measured and reported to the patient, who then can see concretely the effect his thoughts are having on his body. It is believed that employing this technique allows a person to influence heartbeat, blood flow, respiration, and even levels of serotonin and neuropeptides, which bolster the immune system.

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Employing needles, electricity, magnets, or lasers, the therapist adjusts you Chi -- or essential life-force energy -- until the balance of this energy throughout your body is restored to normal levels. The end result is often a sense of relaxation, well-being, and the cessation of pain.

WHAT OTHER ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES ARE AVAILABLE?

Alternative medicine is relatively new to the American public, and has only recently begun to infiltrate traditional medicine. For this reason, Workers' Compensation in New York State does not directly address many of these modalities. If you become interested in a particular therapy that has not yet been addressed, discuss it with your doctor, or with another health professional recognized by the Chair of the Workers' Compensation Board. If that doctor feels that the therapy would be a benefit, have him make a request for authorization to the insurance carrier. If authorization is denied, you may argue for that treatment before a Law Judge.