Procedures covered by Medicare for back issues

When seeking relief from your back pain, you may be wondering what types of procedures Medicare will cover. If you and your doctor decide a specific procedure is right for you, submit a request to Medicare to ensure that they will cover at least some of the cost. Each person is different, so their symptoms, diagnosis and treatment is specific to them . Even if you know someone with similar back issues who did not receive coverage for a specific procedure, it does not mean that you will not be covered .  Medicare frequently covers the cost of injections, as well as surgical procedures for back issues.


Injections are commonly given to relive and diagnose back pain. Although most Medicare plans cover the cost of injections, recent changes to health care could limit the number of injections a person receives. The number of injections covered can vary on a case by case bases.

Epidural injections-An epidural injection is a procedure in which a doctor injects medication, usually a steroid, into the space around the spine, known as the epidural. The out-patient procedure is performed by using an x-ray machine as the needle is inserted to ensure that the patient receives the injections right where they need it. An increasingly common procedure, the results of epidural injections vary. Some individuals experience a slight reduction in back pain while other’s have their pains virtually disappear for weeks or even months.

Nerve block injections– Often used for diagnostic purposes to pinpoint the cause of back pain, a nerve block is an injection of a numbing medicine or an anesthetic, such as lidocaine, into a specific nerve. This results in the temporary numbing of the nerve and is usually accompanied by complete pain relief. Unfortunately, the relief is only temporary because the medication wears off after a few hours.

Surgical procedures

Most forms of back pain do not require surgery, however in some cases it can be the best way to provide relief. Medicare’s coverage of surgical procedures for back pain can be different for each person based on their diagnosis. To be covered, Medicare must be convinced that the surgery is a medical necessity. Some procedures that are commonly covered include:

Discectomy-  The complete removal of a herniated disc that is pressing on a nerve of on the spinal cord.

Microdiscectomy –  This is a minimally invasive surgery where a portion of a hernia disc, is removed to relieve pressure  on a nerve it may be touching or on the spinal cord.

Spinal fusion– Commonly used in the treatment of scoliosis, spinal fusion is a process in which  parts of the spine are fused together using rods, wires or screws to adjust the spine’s shape. It is a major surgery that can involve several days of recovery.