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Asked and Answered: Why aren't comfort and relaxation considered for FSA eligibility?

The truth is, there's a lot more to your overall well-being than routine doctor's appointments and prescription medications. Being comfortable and taking the time to relax is important for both physical and mental health.

But, if you've ever looked at our FSA eligibility list, you've probably noticed an absence of things like massages, yoga classes, meditation retreats, and other things that can enhance your well-being. This is because the IRS has strict guidelines about what is considered a qualified medical expense, and comfort and relaxation currently don't fit into those standards.

Why aren't they qualified expenses?

According to the IRS, for an expense to be eligible the item or service needs to be for the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease or condition. Items and services that you purchase solely for your comfort and relaxation generally don't fit into any of these categories. So while they might be necessary for your overall comfort, they aren't considered a medical necessity.

The good news is that you can still use your FSA funds to help achieve comfort and relaxation, as long as that comfort comes from treating a specific medical need.

So, what's eligible?

There are many items and services that you can purchase with your FSA that will help you find comfort and relax. Many people are surprised to learn just how many items are considered eligible expenses and find that they can make purchases that allow them to achieve what they're looking for. Some of these items include:

Acupressure Mats: In this writer's eyes, all discussions of FSA-eligible pain relief start here. Acupressure mats are an excellent way to relieve muscle discomfort, and many people find them to be the perfect remedy for back pain after a long day of sitting in an office chair.

When used regularly, they can even help improve circulation and flexibility. They're eligible for reimbursement with your FSA and can be used just about anywhere you have room to lay down.

Acupuncture Therapy: This centuries-old technique is popular amongst people who suffer from chronic pain and discomfort. The acupuncture technician uses thin needles to target precise points on your body which will ease the pain. In addition to muscular pain, many people use this technique to find relief from frequent migraines.

And acupuncture therapy is generally considered FSA-eligible without a prescription. In some cases, administrators may require a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) to substantiate the expense, so check with yours before making that appointment.

Heating Pads: Heating pads are a popular and simple way to ease pain and provide comfort. Applying heat can help ease muscle pain, menstrual cramps, ear aches, and headaches. These pads are FSA-eligible and come in a variety of styles and sizes.

Foot Circulators: Not a month goes by where someone from our writing team sings the praises of these foot circulators. And once you try one, there's a good chance you'll do the same thing.

If you spend a lot of time on your feet, you've probably experienced tired, aching feet on a regular basis. Foot circulators help relieve this discomfort with electrical stimulation. This eases pain, improves circulation, and helps minimize swollen ankles and legs. These circulators are FSA-eligible and can make staying on your feet all day considerably more comfortable.

So, what's the takeaway here? While you can't turn to your FSA exclusively for comfort and relaxation purposes, it doesn't mean you won't enjoy those benefits while treating your specific medical needs. Because, after struggling with some serious aches and pains over the years, there's nothing more relaxing than treating and relieving it with the products mentioned above.

Therapeutic favorites...

90-Minute Oska Pulse Electromagnetic Massage Unit

This is a non-drug solution to pain relief that uses pulsed electromagnetic fields to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and improve mobility.

dpl® Oral Care Light Therapy System

Medically proven to increase circulation, enhance gum health, and relieve pain/soreness.


From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Flex-Ed: FSAs for the young and healthy

Think flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are only for families or with recurring health needs? You might want to reconsider. Even if you're young, single and healthy, these tax-free accounts could still save you big, assuming you avoid these common FSA missteps.

Read on for a rundown of why an FSA still makes sense for anyone, even if you're the model of perfect health.

Preventive care

Sure, you're healthy. You exercise every day. Well, almost every day. But you eat right. Well, most of the time, anyway. And you're completely free of stress. Well, except on Mondays, Tuesdays and occasional Thursdays.

Jokes aside, even if you don't have health issues, it's never too early to keep up on your preventive care. Not to be alarmists but 7 out of 10 deaths in the U.S. are a result of preventable, chronic diseases that go undetected early.

Health professionals find that screenings and regular checkups can increase life expectancy, especially among those ages 30-49. That's why it's important to take preventive care seriously, even if you are otherwise young and healthy.

Luckily, an FSA makes taking control of your health that much easier, since vaccinations, lab tests, screenings for diseases like diabetes, breast cancer, HPV, and even DNA testing are all eligible for coverage.

Fitness costs

Now that we've reminded you to work out more, you'll be happy to know several common fitness-related costs are FSA-eligible.

Items like blood pressure trackers and shoe inserts are FSA-eligible. Gym memberships may also be covered, as long as a medical professional determines it's necessary to maintaining and improving your health. This will probably require a letter of medical necessity (LMN) so be sure to get one before submitting reimbursement claims.


Self-care has become a buzzword in recent years. In a nutshell, it covers just about anything you to do treat yourself right. It's also about knowing when you're burning out, and when to take a step back to refocus and rejuvenate.

(It's kind of like "the golden rule" in reverse.)

The good news is that many aspects of self-care now fall under the FSA umbrella. Skin care visits with a dermatologist, light therapy, even Botox (if it's given as a treatment for a medical issue) are all eligible for coverage. And more exotic therapies like acupuncture and massage are also FSA-eligible with a LMN.

And when considering your self-care, don't forget about your financial health. Even if you haven't used a Band-Aid or knee brace since that junior high ski trip, think of an FSA as a tax-free bonus for things you may need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

(And it never hurts to have some ibuprofen and stomach meds on hand, in case one of those rare "unhealthy diet" days comes back to haunt you.)


New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the Learning Center.

LifeSource Digital Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor

This wrist monitor is smaller, lighter and more compact than other wrist monitors, and gives you a faster and more comfortable reading.

Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask

This face mask harnesses the power of clinically proven technology to clear acne and allow skin to heal itself.