Updated: Jul 26
Auricular acupuncture, also known as ear acupuncture, is a therapeutic technique that involves stimulating specific points on the ear to promote healing and overall well-being. It is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that has gained recognition and popularity in both Eastern and Western medical practices.
How does it work?
According to TCM, the ear is considered a microsystem of the whole body, with each specific point on the ear corresponding to various organs, systems, and body parts.
Auricular acupuncture is based on the concept that stimulating these specific points on the ear can restore balance to the body's energy, thereby alleviating physical, mental, and emotional ailments. It is believed that imbalances or blockages in the flow of Qi can lead to pain, disease, or dysfunction. By targeting the corresponding ear points, practitioners aim to restore harmony and promote self-healing. Research has shown that auricular acupuncture can trigger the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural painkillers. It also influences the autonomic nervous system, regulates inflammation, and modulates the release of various hormones.
What happens in a session?
During an auricular acupuncture session, a trained practitioner will take the patient's pulse, observe their tongue, conduct a medical history consultation, examine the patient's ear and identify the points that require stimulation. These points can be treated through various techniques, including:
Acupuncture Needles: Fine, sterile needles are inserted into specific points on the ear. The needles may be manipulated gently to elicit a therapeutic response.
Ear Seeds or Vaccaria Seeds: Tiny seeds or beads, usually made from the vaccaria plant, are applied to the ear using adhesive tape. The patient can then stimulate these seeds by pressing or massaging them throughout the day.
Electroacupuncture: A mild electrical current is passed through acupuncture needles inserted in the ear, enhancing the therapeutic effects.
What are the Benefits of Auricular Acupuncture?
Auricular acupuncture has been used to address a wide range of conditions, including:
Pain Management: It can be effective in reducing pain associated with migraines, arthritis, musculoskeletal disorders, and postoperative discomfort.
Stress and Emotional Well-being: The technique is known to induce relaxation, reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall emotional well-being.
Digestive Disorders: Auricular acupuncture can be beneficial in managing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and nausea.
Addiction Treatment: Auricular acupuncture is widely recognised for its role in substance abuse treatment, including reducing cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and promoting recovery.
How can it help with addiction?
The NADA protocol, also known as the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association protocol, is a standardised auricular acupuncture treatment specifically designed for addressing addiction, substance abuse, and behavioural health issues. Developed in the 1970s by Dr. Michael Smith, the NADA protocol has gained widespread recognition and is used in many addiction treatment centres, behavioural health programs, and community settings around the world.
Numerous studies have examined the effectiveness of the NADA protocol in addiction treatment. Research suggests that it can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, cravings, anxiety, and relapse rates. It may also improve overall well-being, emotional stability, and treatment outcomes.
The NADA protocol focuses on five specific acupuncture points located in the outer ear.
What is the evidence?
While anecdotal evidence and historical use support the effectiveness of auricular acupuncture, scientific studies have also been conducted to validate its therapeutic benefits.
Randomised controlled trials have demonstrated positive outcomes in various areas, including addiction treatment, pain management, and mental health. Auricular acupuncture has been integrated into several healthcare settings, including hospitals, addiction treatment centres, and pain clinics.
This method of treatment is a time-honoured technique that offers a holistic approach to health and well-being. By targeting specific points on the ear, it aims to restore balance and harmony in the body's energy systems. While further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms, the growing body of scientific evidence supports its therapeutic benefits.
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