The TRICARE Health program used throughout the U.S. Department of Defense health care system has disallowed transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation — TENS — as a reimbursable treatment for low back pain. And in another recent shift, the DoD agency that oversees TRICARE has decided that dry needling will not be covered if it’s the sole purpose for a visit.
The TENS decision was announced by the Defense Health Agency on February 26 and is effective June 1, 2020. In the notice of the change, the DoD says the TRICARE policy manual will now list TENS as an “unproven” treatment for low back pain and thus not eligible for coverage. Until now, TRICARE contractors were allowed to decide whether TENS was medically necessary for treatment of LBP.
According to a recent article in Military.com, DoD arrived at its decision after reviewing multiple studies that found weak evidence for the effectiveness of TENS for LBP, with a TRICARE official telling the site that the findings indicated that “TENS for lower back pain is no more effective than … placebo.”