What is Auricular Acupuncture?

What is Auricular Acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use Auricular acupuncture to stimulate specific points on the ear to promote healing and relieve various health issues. The ear is a microsystem reflecting the entire body, and with around 200 acupressure points on the ear, stimulating these points can address imbalances in the Qi or life energy and promote overall well-being. The concept is similar to reflexology, where specific points on the feet are stimulated to promote healing in other body parts.
When specific points in the ear are stimulated, a complex network of nerve signals is sent to the brain, releasing neurotransmitters and hormones that can profoundly affect various bodily functions. This is why auricular acupuncture is believed to effectively address multiple health issues.

How does Auricular Acupuncture work?


When acupuncture or acupressure is applied to acupuncture points in the ear, stimulation of the vagal nerve occurs. The vagal nerve extends from the brain, through the face, down through the chest, and into the abdomen. You have a left vagal nerve and a right vagal nerve. When you cough, sneeze, swallow, or vomit, that’s the vagal nerve at work. It also regulates digestion, heart function, respiratory rate, and some reflex actions. The researchers involved in a study titled Auricular Acupuncture and Vagal Regulation mentioned that auricular acupuncture has been cited as playing a role in preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
But that is not all. If the vagal nerve is not working correctly, it can affect the thyroid gland – people can then have hyper or hypothyroidism. Acupuncture points in the ear have a role in regulating the autonomic nervous system, which comprises the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, so numerous benefits are possible.


 How Auricular Acupuncture Works for Stress Relief


Stimulating specific points encourages the release of endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers and mood enhancers. Endorphins promote a sense of relaxation, which is particularly beneficial for those who are experiencing chronic stress or anxiety. In addition to promoting relaxation, auricular acupuncture can also help improve sleep quality, reduce muscle tension, and enhance overall well-being. 


The Role of Auricular Acupuncture in Pain Management


Pain is a common health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Traditional approaches to pain management often involve medication, which can have side effects and may not always provide long-term relief. Auricular acupuncture offers a natural and holistic approach to pain management by targeting specific points known to have analgesic properties, activating the body’s biological pain-relieving mechanisms. Patients can obtain relief from various types of pain, including musculoskeletal pain, headaches, and neuropathic pain. The benefits continue beyond pain relief. By correcting the flow of Qi, circulation improves, the body’s inflammatory response is reduced, and healing can occur. Many people find that regular auricular acupuncture sessions can significantly reduce their reliance on pain medication and improve their quality of life.


Auricular Acupuncture for Addiction Treatment


Treating addiction is complicated and often involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support groups. Many people are turning to alternative therapies to complement their treatment, and Auricular acupuncture is one alternative therapy with a role to play in helping break the cycle of addiction. The TCM specialist will target specific points on the ear that are known to have a calming and detoxifying effect on the body, helping reduce cravings, alleviating withdrawal symptoms, and promoting overall well-being. Auricular acupuncture can be very helpful for individuals in the early stages of recovery or seeking additional support. 


Insomnia and Sleep Disorders


Any parent who has battled with a child or teen who cannot sleep will understand how tense the child gets because their mind will not slow down sufficiently for them to fall asleep. They are consequently ‘ratty,’ have circles under their eyes, and battle to concentrate in school due to sleep deprivation. By targeting specific points on the ear, TCM practitioners can help regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle and promote a state conducive to sleep. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or who experience restless or disrupted sleep.

Auricular acupuncture offers a natural and holistic approach to addressing sleep issues as opposed to traditional approaches to sleep disorders that involve the use of medication, which may not always provide long-term relief and can have side effects. 

The benefits of auricular acupuncture for insomnia and sleep disorders extend beyond just improving sleep quality. It can also help reduce anxiety and stress and alleviate muscle tension. 


Digestive Issues


Digestive issues can range from mild discomfort to chronic conditions. Traditional approaches often involve dietary changes, medication, and lifestyle modifications. Specific points on the ear are known to regulate digestion and promote overall gastrointestinal health. For individuals with chronic digestive issues looking for additional support in managing their symptoms, auricular acupuncture sessions may help promote overall gastrointestinal health by helping improve digestion, reducing inflammation, and alleviating bloating and nausea. 


Can Auricular Acupuncture Help with Anxiety and Depression?


TCM practitioners can help regulate the body’s stress response and reduce anxiety and depression symptoms; when stress levels are reduced, a person gets a good night’s sleep, and muscle tension is alleviated through acupuncture. Hence, they tend not to be stuck in that anxious mode, which becomes a destructive cycle. 


Does ear-piercing affect acupuncture points?


Most people have their ears pierced without considering the acupuncture point they may have pierced. When TCM acupuncturists do auricular acupuncture, they stimulate the point for a short time to restore energy flow, then remove the needle to allow the flow of Qi once the energy has been unblocked. TCM practitioners believe that permanent ear piercings can be draining on the body because the area is stimulated constantly, affecting the long-term energy flow, particularly if it’s near a meridian, which can be likened to a highway for energy flowing around the body. If you have piercings, they advise using gold, which is Yang, because it can preserve energy. In contrast, silver, Yin, can have a more calming or draining effect on your energy. Correctly done, a permanent ear piercing can provide relief from pain.


Is Auricular Acupuncture safe?


Auricular acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a qualified practitioner. The needles used in auricular acupuncture are very thin. They are inserted shallowly into the skin, minimizing the risk of injury or discomfort. However, finding a practitioner with proper training and experience in performing auricular acupuncture is crucial. Choose a professional who makes you feel comfortable and who takes the time to listen to your concerns and answer your questions. For those averse to needles, there is also auricular acupressure or ear seeding in which beads (seeds) are applied to the ear. Your professional will advise on the procedure most suited to your condition.

 Numerous studies and research have supported the efficacy of auricular acupuncture; in fact,  Auriculotherapy for Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials included 17 trials. The researchers concluded that auricular therapy could be beneficial for various types of pains.

Many people have reported significant health improvement after receiving regular auricular acupuncture sessions. However, it is essential to note that individual results may vary, and it may take several sessions before noticeable improvements are experienced. Auricular acupuncture should not be used as a substitute for conventional medical treatment but rather as a complementary therapy to support overall health and well-being.