Auricular (Ear) acupuncture is based on the holistic theory that the outer portion of ear is the miniature of the entire body (Figure 1). Practically, the acupoints inside the ear can be inserted with very small needles or sticks to small granular and leave on site to keep stimulating. This is very useful when a condition needs treatment with continuous stimulation for a long period, such as a couple of hours or several days in contrast to 20~30 minutes of a typical acupuncture treatment with needle insertion on the acupoints of the body.
Figure 1: The common body sites treated with auriculotherapy as well as their corresponding locations on the outer portion of the ear.
In my clinic, auricular acupuncture works as an adjuvant therapy to the regular acupuncture treatment procedures and plays an important role in treatments for (a) young patients, and (b) for treatment of adult for addiction and substance-abuse and for weight loss. There are two auricular acupuncture techniques used in my practices:
- Long-term auricular acupuncture with the vaccaria ear seeds.
Instead of needle insertion, medical patches (0.25x0.25 inches) with small seeds from the vaccaria plant are attached to the skin surfaces of selected auricular acupuncture points to generate long term and consistent but low to mild level pressures (Figure 2a). The patches will stay for up to 2~3 days depending on different health conditions. When wearing these patches at home, you will be instructed to press and massage each patch to generate a mild to high level pressures multiple times every day and each time lasts for about 30~60 seconds. This technique is safe, no side effect from needle insertion and particularly suitable for young patients and for the elderly who has difficulties in mobility. It is also an good technique for acupuncture treatment of addiction in adults.
- Auricular acupuncture with specially designed short acupuncture needles during office visit.
This technique is similar to the traditional acupuncture with needle insertion during office visit (Figure 2b). Specially designed short needles are used for precise insertion at the dedicated auricular acupoints that are associated with different health conditions. The time for needle insertions are relatively longer than the typical acupuncture section. This technique is mainly used for patients (a) who cannot wear the vaccaria ear seeds for a long time, for example, allergic to medical patches and inconvenience to wear during travel, for patients (b) whose conditions requires strong stimulations that the vaccaria ear seeds cannot deliver.
Figure 2: Auricular acupuncture with (a) medical patch of the vaccaria ear seeds, and with (a) special, short auricular acupuncture needles.