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Healing with Ear Acupuncture

Updated: Oct 26, 2023


Ear Acupuncture seen here with relaxing points targeting your vagus nerve and sympathetic system to increase relaxation and promote good feelings.
Ear Acupuncture with needles

Have you noticed in an Acupuncture appointment, there is almost always a point or two put in your ear and wondered why? Well that’s because the ear is a microsystem, meaning you can treat the whole body and its organs and functions within the ear alone. Ear Acupuncture is utilized by more than East Asian Medicine Practitioners; there are licensed medical doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, and even dentists that have adopted this effective tool for healing the body and mind. The mechanism of action is still unknown, but there are over 200 internationally agreed auricular points.

Today, Auricular Acupuncture has become an important tool for treating substance abuse addictions and PTSD for Soldiers. The healing power of the ear has been recognized and utilized independently all over the globe throughout history. This microsystem medicine has roots in Chinese Medicine, but was also used in ancient Egypt and medieval Western Europe. It was not until the 1950’s with the work of neurologist Dr. Paul Nogier of France that there was a coherent system of ear points that spread around the world. Many people have dubbed him the father of auriculotherapy because of his pioneering work and research in the 1950’s included his famous inverted fetus imposed on the external ear.

Ear Acupuncture is a microsystem meaning you can treat the whole body from the ear.  You can see an upside down baby in the anatomy of the ear which helps show you where to needle to affect different organs or areas of pain.
Ear Acupuncture of baby imposed on ear

He realized that the ear’s shape could be superimposed with the shape of a homunculus type body upside down on the ear. His journey into this curious focus began in 1951; Dr. Nogier learned from a patient that a woman named Madame Barrin in Marseilles treated their sciatica pain by cauterizing a specific point on the external ear. He became fascinated with this folk medicine, watching Madame Barrin treat her patients with a red-hot iron placed carefully in a similar location on the ear’s antihelix. Before long, Dr. Nogier began treating his own patient’s sciatica with this same technique with marvelous outcomes. Frustrated that he didn’t understand how to the procedure worked, he spent the next 50 years devoted to studying the mechanism of what became known as Auriculotherapy. In the beginning he treated his patients with the same methods and tools he learned from Madame Barrin, but he later moved on to acupuncture needles, which he found to be just as effective without the scarring. He spent the rest of his career studying this mechanism of action, and mapping tender points on the ear to physical, physiological, and psychological problems anywhere in the body. As his work began to spread all over the world, it eventually made its way to China during the Cultural Revolution, when medical services were lacking, especially in rural areas. Auriculotherapy was viewed as a quick, cheap, and effective treatment the nation needed.

Ear acupuncture and the NADA protocol has become an important tool in battling substance abuse, addiction, and trauma. The 5-needle protocol (5NP) of NADA began in 1974 at Lincoln Hospital, an outpatient recovery center in South Bronx New York City. At this time period there was a growing drug problem coupled with long waits for admission into substance abuse programs. There was a desire to do more to help people battling addiction, and a recent study out of Hong Kong showed that ear acupuncture could be beneficial in the treatment of addiction. Patients began to report less malaise from withdrawal and more relaxation with daily acupuncture. There was a reduction in cravings, people were more likely to finish their recovery programs, and more likely to share during counseling. Over time 5 primary points remained and became known as the 5NP (5 needle protocol). Sympathetic is used for numerous diseases related to disruption in both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It has a strong analgesic and relaxant effect upon internal organs. It dilates blood vessels. Shenmen regulates excitation, and inhibition of the cerebral cortex. It produces sedative and anti-allergy effects. It is used for many neuropsychiatric disorders. Lung is used for analgesia, sweating, and various respiratory conditions. Liver is used for hepatitis, anemia, neuralgia, muscle spasms, and eye diseases. Kidney is a strengthening point for the cerebrum, hematopoietic system, and kidneys. After this method was developed The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) was established in 1985 to train practioners to implement the Lincoln model first in the USA, then all over the world. Since it was created, NADA has trained thousands of practitioners in these skills, and this protocol is being used at substance abuse treatment centers all over the world. This protocol is even being used during natural disasters like Katrina, and for relief for American soldiers suffering from PTSD. We continue to discover new ways to use the ear to heal patients. Come in and try it out.

Bibliography

1. Nogier PFM. Treatise of auriculotherapy. Moulins-lès-Metz, France: Maisonneuve;

1972.

2. Smith M. Ear acupuncture in addiction treatment. Clinical Addiction Psychiatry.:230-

250. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511782107.024.

3. Chen P, Helme M. Modern Chinese ear acupuncture. Brookline, MA: Paridigm

Publications; 2004.


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