Auricular Acupuncture: Ears are useful for more than just hearing!

Acupuncture literally means “to treat with needles” and over the last few thousand years a number of styles of acupuncture treatments have developed. These different styles reflect both cultural and research influences as acupuncture has spread throughout the world: initially to Japan and Korea in the 6th century; to Vietnam by the 8th century; eventually to Europe via France in the 1500’s; then finally the whole world by the early 21st century. Rather than one style or system being necessarily better than another, a qualified acupuncturist will choose the best option for the individual client before them, having regard to the clients presenting complaint and constitution.  One of the most recently developed styles is auricular (ear) acupuncture, which was popularized by the French in the 1960’s and is now used worldwide for a range of conditions.

 Auricular acupuncture points are treated either with small fine acupuncture pins, or by taping a small tack or metal sphere to the point to allow the client to re-stimulate the points by simply pressing on them between visits.  Laser can be used as an alternative to needles for sensitive clients. What makes ear points special is that the nerve supply to the fleshy part of the ear is mainly via cranial nerves. This means that when an ear point is stimulated a centre directly within the brain is stimulated. This may explain why ear points are so useful for conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor concentration and pain. Indeed in clinic we often use ear points at the initial stages of severe acute back pain, and ear points always feature in treatment for stress, anxiety and insomnia. Since the 1970’s a protocol developed in the USA called the NADA protocol (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) has been used in institutional settings worldwide to assist with alcohol and drug withdrawal, and in clinic we use a similar approach to assist people experiencing side effects from the withdrawal of medications such as anti-depressants and painkillers. Most recently the US military is using a specific group of ear points for the treatment of acute pain and trauma on the battlefield – called “battlefield acupuncture”.  Auricular acupuncture has broad application so when you next visit the clinic you’ll understand why you may have points selected on your ear.