Auricular Acupuncture, also known as Auriculotherapy, is a form of alternative medicine that has roots in the Chinese medical practise of acupuncture. Where acupuncture is performed by inserting thin needles at certain points all over the body for healing effects, auricular acupuncture takes place only in the ear. This is based on the idea that the ear, and in particular the outer portion of the ear (the auricle) is representative, or a micro-system of, the entire body. Therefore sickness of any part can be treated just by stimulating its surface, as it is thought to contain a huge number of very important acupuncture points that reference other parts of the human anatomy.
Dr Paul Nogier developed his theory of auricular acupuncture in the 1950s, based on the technique of a French healer who treated sciatica (pains in the lower back and leg) through cauterisation of parts of the ear. After investigation, Nogier came to believe that there was a correlation between locations on the ear and different parts of the human body. He used techniques based on the ancient Chinese practise of acupuncture, but along with needling, he used massaging, cauterising or electrically stimulating different regions of the ear. Aside from being a treatment for pain, auricular acupuncture has also been used with other therapies to treat substance abuse.
There are more than 200 acupuncture points on the outside of the ear that a auricular acupuncturist must be familiar with in order to treat pain. Each point is believed to correspond to a different area of the body’s central nervous system: all the head acupuncture points are believed to be found on the earlobe, the major organs in the conch, and the lower limbs at the top of the ear. These areas are determined based on their Vascular Autonomic Signal (VAS), which refers to the amplitude of the pulse when certain points of the ear are stimulated. The VAS is used mostly in diagnosis. In stimulating these different areas with either a needle, laser, massage, or electrically, Chinese medicine believes that you Chi (life energy) flows more freely, however Western medicine postulates that this stimulation releases certain chemicals into the brain that create a feeling of well being.
Auricular acupuncture has been used for the treatment of cocaine addiction, to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Needles are inserted into five different points on the ear, each corresponding to a specific organ or for a particular purpose that is believed to reduce or stop dependence on cocaine. They are not only believed to give relief from cravings, but also help repair the physiological damage caused by long term drug abuse. These points are:
The sympathetic point – facilitates the body’s release of endorphins, and relaxes internal organs;
The Shenmen point – reduces stress and helps the patient to sleep;
The lung point – helps with breathing and circulation in the detoxification process;
The kidney point – helps digestion and relieves kidney damage;
The liver point – helps the body to keep working smoothly, repairs liver impairment, and is believed to help maintain steady emotions.
Auricular acupuncture is believed to be effective in treating a range of ailments, from emotional to physical, to respiratory. It is thought to relieve insomnia, depression, anxiety and pre-menstrual tension. The physical problems it is credited with aiding are back pain, arthritis, headaches, hernias, shingles, tennis elbow, obesity, migraines, hay fever, colitis, sciatica, tendinitis, indigestion, and sinus problems. Success rates for auriculotherapeutic treatment of these disorders are believed to be as high as 95%.