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Article : Auricular Acupuncture - Ear Acupuncture

By David S. White - Sydney

M.App.Sc.(Acupuncture), D.TCM, Cert.Int.Med.

Member AACMA, P.H.A.S.



This article aims at educating patients and practitioners about a developing, highly efficacious, therapeutic modality, Auricular Acupuncture.


Auricular Acupuncture, also known as Auriculotherapy, Ear Acupuncture, or Auricular Therapy is the method of stimulating different reflex zones or points on the auricle (ear) via electrical devices, massage, and acupuncture needles. It is a clinically proven, non-invasive and cost effective method of acupuncture for many disorders, ranging from pain relief to addiction.


Historical Developments: inverted foetusDeveloped in the 1950's by French Physician Dr. Paul Nogier, Auriculotherapy is based on both western and traditional Chinese medical concepts. Dr. Nogier first observed that some of his patients had been cauterised in the upper ear for relief of Sciatic Neuralgia. Through clinical observation and research Dr. Nogier realised that this particular area corresponded to the lower back region, and from this developed the theory of the "inverted foetus" (refer to image 1). Known as a somatotopic representation (that is, a concentration of reflexes, a reflection, of the body onto a specific area, in this case the auricle) the inverted foetus was similar to the distribution of control centres as mapped on the human brain, this allowed the physician non-invasive access to the entire body. Dr. Nogier also introduced this method of acupuncture, using the inverted foetus theory, into China.


The "inverted foetus" as depicted by Nogier. Sourced from Dr. Nogier's book: "Handbook to Auriculotherapy" 1981, Maisonneuve S.A. France.


It was not until the 1970's that Auricular Acupuncture gained acceptability outside of Europe and China. A study performed by a Hong Kong practitioner (Wen et al 1973) showed that stimulation to the Lung Zone on the auricle assisted patients in the withdrawal of Heroin. This possibility of a non-methadone and non-psychological intervention in the treatment of substance abuse became the focus of one particular American physician Dr. Michael Smith. From this, the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) was developed and erected at Lincoln Hospital in New York. The well known NADA protocol is still used today, in collaboration with psychological intervention, as a very effective method of substance withdrawal management.


Dr. Nogier continued his research in cooperation with other physicians interested in the field of Auriculotherapy and came across other clinically relevant developments, particular that of the Vascular Autonomic Signal. The Vascular Autonomic Signal (N-VAS) is a skin reflex that manifests and is palpable at the radial pulse, it is used by advanced practitioners of Auriculotherapy and Ear Acupuncture to precisely diagnose and locate points and zones on the ear. This practice is known as Auriculomedicine and allows for quicker results and more precise understanding of a patients disorder.


The Practice of Auriculotherapy

Practitioners of Auriculotherapy will most often use very fine single use disposable stainless steel acupuncture needles for stimulation. However for the needle phobic or children, minute electrical stimulation or laser may be used. In the advanced forms of Auriculotherapy / Auriculomedicine gold or silver needles will be used, the choice of metal is determined by the use of the radial pulse and hence assessment of the N-VAS.


When the needles are placed there is generally no feeling at all, however, some patients have felt some heaviness or distension around the ear. Generally all earrings etc. should be removed to allow the practitioner access to the entire ear. Practitioners should also adhere to strict skin penetration guidelines and ensure sterile hygienic methods are employed.

Registration for Acupuncturists has already occurred in Victoria, and hence patients seeking such practices should only go to a qualified, registered practitioner. In New South Wales registration is hopefully on the way, but all patients must still be careful about whom they receive acupuncture from - unfortunately there are a lot of unqualified people who say they practice Acupuncture, Auricular Therapy etc, and they must be avoided. In Australia the primary accrediting body is the Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) and anyone wishing to correspond or obtain treatment from an Acupuncturist or Auriculotherapist should first check with them to see if they have membership. With the increase of "specialised" forms of Acupuncture (such as the well known "Acu-Face Lift" and "Auricular Therapy") many fraudulent practitioners are trying to "cash in" on such therapies, therefore all patients seeking treatment must be careful and be sure that the individual applying the procedure has recognised qualifications.


Conclusion :

Auriculotherapy has been well researched and clinically practiced intensively over the past half century. Universities in the United States, Germany, and France have found that Auriculotherapy is useful for pain (acute and chronic), stress conditions, gynaecological conditions, gastric disorders, neurological disorders, neuralgia, and circulatory disorders. Most of these indications have become well established through recognition by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.). In Australia Auriculotherapy and even more so Auriculomedicine is quite new. There are only a handful of selected practitioners in the whole of Australia that are qualified and able to apply this specialised form of medicine.


About the author:

David S. White


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