What is auriculotherapy?
Auriculotherapy involves the stimulation of the “auricle” of the external ear for the treatment of health conditions in other parts of the body. It applies the principles of acupuncture to specific points on the ear, and can be done with less cost without the need for full treatment tables or private sessions.
It is known as ear acupuncture or auricular acupuncture when the stimulation is achieved by the insertion of acupuncture needles. Specific points can also be stimulated by manual pressure, referred to as auricular acupressure or ear reflexology. This pressure can be facilliated with ear seeds or pellets that are secured by medical tape. Ear points can also be stimulated with infra-red laser or electricity, which are analagous to aculaser and electroacupuncture therapies for acupuncture points on the body.
What does auriculotherapy do?
The auriculotherapy technique that Dr. Nogier developed charted a regional specificity to the body. There are up to 200 acupuncture points on the outer ear, each point named after an area or body such as hips, knees, areas of the back. Although auriculotherapy was originally used to treat pain (neck or back, headaches, menstrual cramping and other discomforts), like acupuncture, it is now used for whole system functioning. For instance, it is used to promote sports performance, ferility, immunity, cardiovasular function and digestion. It can be used to treat anxiety and depression and create better focus and optimize cognitive performance.
There is evidence that the ear is particularly sensitive to the release of endorphins when stimulated, which may explain its ability to reduce pain and more, such as helping people with compulsive/addictive behaviours like excessive eating and smoking.
Recent research has indicated that the effects of acupuncture may be more than endorphins, but due to its broader impact on the autonomic nervous system (fight-flight sympathetic system, and the restorative parasympathetic system), both locally where the needles are placed, and also centrally at key areas in the spinal cord and the brain.
Below are a few research references regarding auricular acupuncture and also about acupuncture’s impact broadly on the autonomic nervous system.
1. Lin et al. Effect of auricular acupuncture on heart rate, oxygen consumption and blood lactic acid for elite basketball athletes. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2011, 39:6 1131-8.
2. Gerhard I & Postneek F. 1992. Auricular acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility. Gynecological Endocrinology 6:171-181.
3. How might acupuncture work? A systematic review of physiologic rationales from clinical trials. 2006 Moffet, H.H.. BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 6:25
4. FMRI connectivity analysis of acupuncture effects on an amygdala-associated brain network. Liu, Y. et al. 2008. Molecular Pain, 4:55. 3. Do Chil Lee, Myung O. Lee, Donald Clifford, Lucien Morris.
5. The Autonomic Effects of Acupuncture and Analgesic Drugs on the Cardiovascular System. Medical College of Ohio. Am. J. Acupuncture 22(1):5-14. 1994
The history of auriculotherapy
Although the insertion of needles into the ear dates back to ancient China, modern ear acupuncture is a western discovery! It is based on the work of the medical doctor Paul Nogier of France in the 1950s. He was amazed to find that many of his patients with back pain/sciatica were being successfully treated by a local woman through ear cauterization. He successfully adapted this idea with less invasive procedures such as acupuncture. Dr. Nogier noticed a regional specificity of the ear to relieve pain, and charted the ear in relation to the best points that affected different body areas. Dr. Nogier’s model was first presented to naturopathic practitioners in France in 1957, then the idea spread across the west and finally was translated into Chinese. Auriculotherapy has been adopted successfully into Chinese Medicine.
Why is ear acupuncture associated with quitting smoking and losing weight?
Ear acupuncture first became very popular when a special detoxification protocol was developed in New York by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) 25 years ago. The ear was considered an easy, safe and convenient part of the body to treat groups of people at a time who were struggling with overcoming drug addictions. In the protocol, five acupuncture needles are placed at specific points in the ear, and due to the placement, the patients were able to take the needles out themselves (to minimize potential risk to the acupuncturists) directly into a biohazard disposal container. Today, this prescription of points is offered by many clinics, and can be used for more than addiction recovery (any compulsive activity, such as excessive eating as a calming behaviour, etc).
Why choose auriculotherapy: and which modality of ear seeds, acupunture, laser, or electrostimulation?
The answer is based on cost, effectiveness of treatment, and your personal preference:
If you are coming for a low cost tune up to help with stress or just feel your best, ear seeds can be a great option. Our community acupuncture clinic is very affordable since it allows people to come and pay on a sliding scale to get acupuncture in a group setting while reclining in a chair for an hour.
However, if you are being treated for a significant and specific problem, we recommend you get a full session which does not focus on the ear per se. This permits a complete assessment and treatment to improve the results dramatically. Typically we use many modalities together, representing the broad strengths of our team. Often however, our acupuncturists will incorporate auricular points as an adjunct to the treatment. This approach of treating you is more effective and versatile to address your whole constitutional health. We suggest starting with a full session, and we’ll incorporate auriculotherapy into your session to let you know what it’s about. If you are getting a full acupuncture session, ear seeds or electrostimulation of the ear can be included with no extra charge.
We welcome patients who prefer or would like to experience ear acupuncture alone. Moreover, as your experience and knowledge of the impact of different types of treatment grows, you will know what works best — this is a central principle in our patient-centred practice. Some patients and children may not want to have needles inserted in their ears, so laser acutherapy and ear seeds are a great alternative that work too!
How do I book an auriculotherapy treatment?
Auricular Acupuncture, ear seeds, laser auricular therapy, and electrostimulation of the ear can all be part of a full, private, 50 minute session or more commonly, they are part of community clinics.
You can schedule an Ear Seed session by itself in community clinics, which takes about 15 minutes and costs only $15!