Ear acupuncture, which is also commonly known as auricular therapy or auriculo-acupuncture, is a type of acupuncture is a form of acupuncture, a practice used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is often included into standard acupuncture treatment. However, unlike traditional acupuncture that was described thousands of years ago, ear acupuncture was developed in the mid-20th century by Paul Nogier, a scientist from France.
The idea behind auricular therapy is that the ear is a microsystem, where the auricle is a map that represents the organs of the entire body. Thus, ear acupuncture procedure implies inserting tiny needles into certain points on the auricle in order to stimulate them. The stimulation of these points is supposed to help heal other organs of the body.
What Can Auricular Acupuncture Be Used for?
The practice of auricular acupuncture helps to improve the flow of vital energy called qi (or chi) in the body, as well as restore the yin-yang balance within the internal organs, where yin and yang are two opposing energies that complement each other. According to the traditional Chinese medicine theory, this is believed to play an essential role in treating health conditions and maintaining overall health.
Although most of such practices as ear acupuncture are considered to provide rather a placebo effect, than an actual treatment, it can be recommended additionally for various conditions including allergies, anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, constipation, depression, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, low back pain, and others.
Besides, specialists believe that ear acupuncture is able to enhance mood, help in smoking cessation, relieve pain, improve sleep, reduce stress, as well as support healthy weight loss.
What Are the Benefits of Auricular Acupuncture?
It is not clear yet whether the use of ear acupuncture provides real health benefits, since there is a lack of large-scale clinical trials on this alternative type of treatment. However, existing research suggests that it may contribute to the treatment of certain diseases and health complications. More precisely, studies have found that auricular therapy may have positive effects on people with insomnia, migraines, post-surgery pain, constipation, as well as those who are trying to quit smoking.
Ear acupuncture has been repeatedly shown to provide some positive impact on those suffering from insomnia. There a few studies related to acupuncture as a potential insomnia treatment, including a trial published in 2003 in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
The study involved fifteen adults with insomnia that were treated with auricular therapy for a period of three weeks. In this trial, the acupuncturist used magnetic pearls to stimulate the acupuncture points. The results showed a significant increase in quality and quantity of sleep among the participants. The effects provided by the therapy lasted for about six months after the session.
A study published in Acupuncture & Electro-Therapeutics Research in 2012 suggested that auricular acupuncture may help to treat migraines.
Thirty-five patients with migraine were treated with auricular therapy weekly during two months, which led to significantly improved pain and mood.
According to a 2010 report published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and based on the analysis of 17 studies related to auricular acupuncture’s effectiveness in pain management, this practice may provide benefits in those with various types of pain, especially post-surgery pain.
Auricular acupuncture has also been found to help treat constipation, as suggested by the review of 29 studies on acupuncture’s effect on constipation, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2010.
Almost all 29 studies that were looked at were in favor of ear acupuncture reporting its effectiveness in treating constipation. However, the authors of the review believe that these findings can only be confirmed, if there is more research done on.
Opinions on ear acupuncture as a smoking cessation aid have been quite controversial so far. For instance, a study published in the Swiss Journal of Research in Complementary and Natural Medicine in 2004, suggested that auricular therapy can be an effective alternative to conservative drug withdrawal methods. This study includes a survey of 126 quitting smokers who had undergone ear acupuncture therapy. The results revealed that in 41% of the cases, the treatment had a one-year success.
Another study from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, however, came up to the opposite conclusion. For this study, 125 people received five weekly treatments with ear acupuncture. The results show that, when it comes to improving the smoking cessation rate, this traditional method provided effect similar to that of placebo.
Is Ear Acupuncture Right for You?
If you think that auricular therapy might help you improve your health condition, discuss this treatment option with your doctor. To reduce the risk of serious health consequences, you should never practice self-treatment and avoid or delay standard care without notifying you physician first.