Medicare now covers acupuncture

And it’s available on Island at Vineyard Complementary Medicine.


Good news for the over-65 crowd: Medicare now covers an effective, nonpharmaceutical, nonsurgical treatment for chronic pain: acupuncture.

Acupuncture is administered by inserting tiny needles into very precise locations (points) determined by symptoms. The needle insertion points are based on a series of points along meridians, or channels, that interconnect throughout the body, each with a different function. There are 12 principal meridians within the body, containing almost 400 acupuncture points.

Acupuncture has been used and studied throughout the world for more than 4,000 years, according to the Mayo Clinic, where the treatment is utilized to rebalance the flow of energy (chi) in the body for pain management and to treat many conditions including postoperative nausea, anxiety relief, drug addiction, insomnia. and headaches.

The ancient Chinese therapy of acupuncture was introduced to the Western world by James (“Scotty”) Reston, New York Times columnist and publisher of the Vineyard Gazette. While traveling with President Richard Nixon in China in 1971, Reston underwent an emergency appendectomy, and subsequently described acupuncture’s success in relieving his postoperative pain. Since then, acupuncture has flourished in the West.

A half-century after Reston wrote of acupuncture’s usefulness, Medicare has finally accepted and approved what much of the world has known for centuries: Acupuncture works. Medicare-covered acupuncture is now available on Island at Vineyard Complementary Medicine (VCM) in Edgartown. Many private insurances also cover acupuncture, including Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield, Federal Blue Cross, Allways Partners Plus (M.V. Hospital employees), Tufts, and others. Check your individual coverage to see if you have acupuncture coverage. For more information, go to VCM’s website,

I found acupuncture at Vineyard Complementary Medicine to significantly lessen my chronic pain and to be a pleasant experience. I barely felt the needles go in, and was unaware of their presence for the minutes the pins remained in place while I rested in a comfortable, private room, listening to recordings of gently breaking waves. Twice I was lucky enough to score the treatment room with skyward-facing windows for the added delight of watching seagulls dip and soar overhead.

Currently, there are three licensed and highly trained acupuncture specialists on the VCM staff. However, because of the increased awareness and proven results of acupuncture, VCM is currently recruiting for several positions, including acupuncturist.

The VCM acupuncture team is Susan Sanford, president and CEO of Vineyard Complementary Medicine; Ty Romijn, licensed acupuncturist; and Patricia Vaidulas, licensed acupuncturist.

Susan Sanford is a licensed physical therapist, a licensed acupuncturist, a diplomate of acupuncture (board-certified by the National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) and a certified sports medicine acupuncturist. Sanford feels her background in physical therapy combined with Chinese medicine theory and complementary medicine treatment techniques is invaluable for helping to resolve and manage difficult cases of sciatica, low back pain, and arthritis and musculoskeletal injuries. “That’s why,” Sanford explained to The Times, “the VCM practice of collaborating with other staff specialists is key to successful healing, and especially significant for low back and chronic pain.”

Ty Romijn is a licensed acupuncturist, certified zero balancer, and tai chi chuan instructor. He is on the faculty of both the Institute of Taoist Education and Acupuncture and the Zero Balancing Health Association. In the healing arts profession for more than two decades, Romijn brings his training to the client. His understanding of both the Eastern acupuncture meridians and Western musculoskeletal system supports the client in healing both energetically and structurally.

Working with acupuncture and bodywork allows Romijn to address organ dysfunction and musculoskeletal issues in the same session.

Patricia Vaidulas is a certified and licensed Five Element acupuncturist and massage therapist. The Five Element theory is an integrated system of acupuncture that gathers protocols from Korean, Japanese, and Chinese modalities. Vaidulas’ practice has steadily evolved to include acupuncture and different forms of bodywork, incorporating techniques such as fascial stretch therapy, meridian-based massage, zero balancing, cupping, and other therapeutic tools.

Five-Point Ear Acupuncture Clinic

Acupuncture is typically done through individual appointments, but VCM offers a weekly Five-Point Ear Acupuncture Clinic for those who are curious or in need of a tune-up. The clinic is held every Monday night at 6 pm. Following the National Acupuncture Detox Association protocol, the Five-Point treatment helps many issues, including stress relief, anxiety, pain reduction, and detox from alcohol, drugs, sugar, or tobacco, and much more. The 45-minute session costs $22 online or $20 cash or checks only at the door. Socially distanced in VCM’s big, beautiful gym, COVID protocols are followed. Any Martha’s Vineyard veteran can attend the Monday night clinic free of charge. Online reservations are required: visit

Community service clinic

Although not publicly advertised, under the direction of Ty Romijn, VCM has established a service clinic to provide Five-Point Ear Acupuncture to our essential workers. Since November 2020, the acupuncture team has donated its time to hold free two-hour Five-Point Ear Acupuncture Clinics for the employees of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, local grocery stores, veterans, and first responders. The next service clinic will be for all Island nurses, in honor of National Nurses Day on May 6. All services are provided free of charge.