The Versatility & Effectiveness of Ear Acupuncture

Ear Acupuncture

Ear Acupuncture Community Style

Several years ago, I worked with a small team of acupuncturists giving ear acupuncture to inmates at a local jail. Three days a week, we treated up to sixty men seated in a large room. One of the things I love about acupuncture is its adaptability. You can treat one patient lying on a massage table in a private treatment room, or you can treat sixty patients seated in chairs community style. Both are effective. The men we treated in the jail often told us the treatments not only reduced their drug cravings–what we were treating them for–but also helped their mood, chronic back and neck pain, headaches, and sleep.

What Other Benefits Does Ear Acupuncture Offer?

  • Ear acupuncture, alone or in addition to body points, is beneficial for a wide range of conditions, from acute and chronic pain, headaches, allergies and asthma, digestive issues, women’s health issues, inflammation, and high blood pressure.
  • Even the 5-needle National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol used in over 1,000 addiction treatment programs in the US and Canada, is now used by Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) in their trauma relief clinics with great success. This simple protocol reduces stress and agitation, promotes a state of relaxation and calmness, and improves sleep without side effects. Who couldn’t benefit from that?

How Does Ear Acupuncture Work?

By directly stimulating the 4 nerves that supply the external ear:

  • great auricular nerve (a branch of the cervical plexus)
  • lesser occipital nerve
  • auricular branch of the vagus nerve
  • auriculotemporal nerve (a branch of the trigeminal nerve)

And by affecting other areas also supplied by those nerves, for example:

  • the Lung and Stomach ear points are both located in the area of the ear supplied by the auricular branch of the vagus nerve
  • the vagus nerve innervates the lung and stomach organs

By treating reflex points mapped out on the ear:

  • When you touch your right thumb, the sensation stimulates the peripheral nervous system, which sends a signal to the central nervous system (CNS). You feel the sensation in your right thumb because the area in your brain that corresponds with “right thumb” is activated. Using fMRI, Alimi et al. (2002) observed that when the thumb point on the right ear was needled, that same “right thumb” area in the brain lit up, as if the thumb itself were stimulated [1]!
  • There is an ear reflex point for every part of the body. For example, there is an ear point for the liver, the heart, the ankle, the hip, and the thyroid. The ear points communicate directly with the CNS. The right thumb, the neck, the left hip can all be treated by needling their corresponding ear reflex points. Because the ear points communicate directly with the CNS and the communication goes both ways . . .

Ear Points Can Also Be Used As a Diagnostic Tool

I remember a visiting a friend shortly after completing my first ear acupuncture course. My friend kindly allowed me to examine her ear and I noticed a red mark on her uterus point. I shared my observations and she informed me of her recent diagnosis of uterine fibroids. Since that time, I consider the ear a useful diagnostic tool for locating acute and chronic conditions as well as old injuries. For example, a recent patient came in for knee pain, but did not mention an old hip injury. I saw a mark on his ear in the hip area and asked about any prior hip conditions. The old hip injury was contributing to his current knee condition and we treated both.

Ear needles vs. Ear Seeds or Beads

  • Ear needles are tiny (1/4” to 1/2”) sterile, stainless steel needles inserted into specific points on the ear.
  • Ear seeds (usually radish seeds) or ear beads (tiny stainless steel, silver, or gold balls) do not puncture the skin. They are placed on the points with adhesive tape. They are left on for two or three days and can be gently stimulated three to five times a day.
  • It is the general consensus among acupuncturists that ear needles are more effective than ear seeds. That said, I often send patients home with ear seeds following their acupuncture treatment. The ear seeds help to continue the benefits of the treatment. They are also useful for children and needle-sensitive individuals.

Ear Acupuncture is Versatile & Effective, Backed by Science, & Treats a Wide Range of Conditions Without Side Effects

Contact me if you are interested in receiving ear acupuncture or ear seeds or have further questions.

[1] D. Alimi, A. Geissmann, and D. Gardeur, “Auricular acupuncture stimulation measured on fMRI imaging,” Medical Acupuncture, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 18-21, 2002.

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