What is ear (auricular) acupuncture?

Auricular acupuncture is an interesting form of the ancient Chinese practice that has grown remarkably in recent years. In this article we look at what auricular acupuncture actually is, and will hopefully answer any questions you may have about the practice .

What is ear acupuncture?

Known as auriculo therapy, ear acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, this particular therapy is based on the belief that the ear, or more specifically its outer portion, can work as a representative microcosm of the entire body. What this means is that ear acupuncturists believe that other parts of the body can be treated by manipulating parts of the auricle (outer ear). This is not dissimilar to the theory employed by reflexologists, who believe that the sole of the foot is a microcosm for the rest of the body.

Like most other traditional acupunctural practices, ear acupuncture is practiced through the use of needles inserted into target acupoints. In doing so, an acupuncturist hopes to stimulate recovery and repair.

The essential principles behind the development of ear acupuncture are, again like those of traditional acupuncture. The method was originally devised as a means by which the flow of energy through the body can be manipulated to restore good health. This energy is known as Qi, and was thought to travel through meridians that acted like a circulatory system. Disruptions in Qi flow would correspond to certain illnesses, and acupuncture was a tool with which normal flow could be restored.

Ear acupuncture follows the same principle in most cases, with practitioners aiming to insert needles into acupoints in such a manner that healthy Qi flow can be restored. Unfortunately scientific investigations into Qi have not yielded any evidence to support its existence, and thus far no proof is available to back up any claims that auricular acupuncture works.

What can auricular acupuncture do?

As there is little evidence to support the practice of auricular acupuncture, what the practice can achieve is based on what practitioners and their patients claim. Ear acupuncture can apparently help manage pain and reduce stress and anxiety.

How is ear acupuncture performed?

Ear acupuncture is performed using fine, sterilised needles of varying lengths which are inserted into specific acupoints of the auricle. Depending on who is providing the service, these needles can be left in for anywhere between 30-40 minutes and a few days.

Is ear acupuncture safe?

Many people are unsurprisingly concerned about the safety of having needles put into the ear. Fortunately auricular acupuncture only involves the insertion of needles into the outer part of the ear, away from any major blood vessels or other significant physiological structures. The treatment is regularly reviewed for its safety, and thus far has not presented any major concerns otherwise they would be addressed by the relevant authorities here in the UK.

Provided an acupuncturist abides by their training and uses sterile needles in a hygienic environment, the risk of infection after auricular acupuncture is extremely small.

« Can I get acupuncture on the NHS? Can acupuncture help manage pain? »