What is Auriculotherapy?

Auriculotherapy is a therapeutic intervention in which specific points located on the external ear are stimulated in order to alleviate health conditions in other parts of the body.  Auriculotherapy was originally based on Chinese acupuncture, which today is a scientifically based integrated system of Chinese and Western practices.  Auriculotherapy is neither experimental nor investigational.  Auriculotherapy is not ear acupuncture.  It does not involve needles and the skin is not punctured. It is a scientifically developed neurological diagnostic and therapeutic treatment modality.

Both auriculotherapy and body acupuncture have historical origins in ancient China. It is believed that ear acupuncture was developed 2500 years ago and body acupuncture was developed 5000 years ago.  However, body acupuncture has remained essentially unchanged, whereas auriculotherapy has been greatly modified based on the discoveries of Dr. Paul Nogier, a neurologist from Leon  France, and subsequent world wide scientific investigation.  In 1952 he developed what he termed “Auricular Medicine” and created the full map of where the points in the ear were located.   Today auriculotherapy is a rapidly growing complementary medical treatment and diagnostic modality primarily due to its safety and therapeutic benefits.

One of the earliest English translations of Chinese ear acupuncture was performed by Dr. Helena Huang in 1958.  She stated that “there was a massive movement to study and apply ear acupuncture across the nation [China].”  As a result, the scope of ear acupuncture was greatly enlarged.  She noted that certain individuals began “to promote the revisionist line in medicine and health. [Refers to political situation in China at that time]  They spread erroneous ideas, such as Chinese Medicine is unscientific and insertion of the needle can only kill pain but not cure disease…Since the cultural revolution dispelled these erroneous ideas, ear acupuncture has been again broadly applied all over the country.” ]

Body acupuncture is based on a system of 12 meridians [or energy lines] which run throughout the surface of the entire body [except the ear itself].  Auriculotherapy points are localized regions of lowered skin resistance [or higher conductance] which are sensitized when there is a problem in the corresponding part of the body that the ear point represents.  In auriculotherapy one can both identify and treat specific problems of the body. 

Auriculotherapy does not simply reduce the experience of pain, which is the more immediate effect, but also facilitates the natural healing processes of the body.  It facilitates the natural, self regulating homeostatic mechanisms of the body by diminishing overactive bodily functions or increasing under-active physiological processes.

            Medical research in China over the last 40 years has focused on the relationship of ear acupuncture to meridian channels. Today in China, medical conditions are being grouped into 3 categories:

  • Those which can be treated or cured by auriculotherapy alone.
  • Those conditions with symptoms that can at least be partially alleviated by auriculotherapy.
  • Those where improvement is seen only in individual cases.

In Concordance with the 1990 nomenclature session of the World Health Organization (WHO), The Chinese government authorized a committee to standardize the name and location of auricular points.  This committee defined the location of 91 auricular points.  These points are utilized to relieve pain and pathology in the body. The use of Auriculotherapy allows us to treat areas of the body that are either too painful to treat locally or not easily accessible.  There are over 500 conditions that auriculotherapy has historically been used for.  In 1980 the World Health Organization determined and defined 120 diseases treatable by auriculotherapy.

The Nobel Prize winning research of Melzac and Wahl on the gate theory of pain led to the development of tens micro current electrical devices for pain treatment.  Since the surface of the skin on the ear is much thinner that that of the body, and because active ear points can shift slightly in location we use an electrical “point finder” instrument to determine the specific location of a given point for treatment on that day. We then also use this instrument for treatment. By stimulating a particular micro-point, pain relief and or healing of the corresponding organ can be initiated.   Electrical stimulation of these ear points tends to produce more effective pain relief that does needle stimulation of the ear. Therefore, there is no need for needles and it is not necessary to puncture the skin.  The micro-current probe is efficient and relatively painless.  We utilize auriculotherapy as an adjunct to the more familiar chiropractic adjusting procedures as necessary.

Stimulation of ear points has been found to raise blood serum levels and cerebrospinal fluid levels of the naturally occurring pain relieving bio-chemicals known as endorphins, and a neurotransmitter called enkephalin [which is a sub-fraction of endorphin].  This is one reason that auriculotherapy is used in addiction treatment and therapy programs because it encourages patient compliance and motivation to stay off drugs.  Auriculotherapy can reduce a patient’s physiological symptoms and psychological craving. However, the patient’s self motivation to abstain is still required.  The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) has selected 5 ear acupuncture points for the treatment of substance abuse and the relief of narcotic withdrawal symptoms.  Dr.  Jay Holder and the American College of Addictive and Compulsive Disorders (ACACD) have developed a treatment protocol utilizing 6 points.

There are 4 cranial nerves innervating the ear; Trigeminal [5th cranial nerve] (mandibular division), Facial [7th], Glossopharyngeal [9th], and the Vagus [10th] nerve.  The ear also receives innervation from the cervical ganglia arising from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cervical nerve roots.  Unlike acupuncture which is directed to meridians, auriculotherapy is directed toward the nervous innervation of the ear.  Auricular points lower skin resistance making the specific point more conductive for the  micro- current . The higher conductance of the point is measurable, and is how the point is locatable.

The more conductive the point is, the more sensitive the point is.  Usually, the more sensitive the point the “sicker” or more abnormal the point is.  The point finder has both a visual and audible scale that aids in both finding and treating the points. The higher the pitch, the higher the conductance, the more abnormal the point.  Once the point to be treated is located, stimulation for treatment is immediately performable which reduces placement errors.  This highly specialized instrument allows for specific point location and instantaneous treatment all in one device, as opposed to how acupuncture points were found and treated by the traditional Method of Tsung.  The points express in either positive or negative polarity.  The Differential amplifier measures the polarity demand and automatically matches the polarity of the point, thereby eliminating an additional treatment variable and possible source of treatment error.

The use and abuse of illicit drugs in the U.S. is of epidemic proportions. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, more people are in federal prison for a drug-related crime than in the active military, and the leading causes of death and crime are drug related.  There is considerable ongoing research studying the therapeutic effects of combinations of alternative treatment and the benefits of different treatment protocols.  A recent study  has demonstrated that chiropractic adjustments outperformed auriculotherapy and improved the outcome of professional counseling, which is where the majority of work in addiction treatment is done, and which is required in the recovery process.  The scientific community is awaiting publication of reproduction of the study results.

Recently the Discovery Channel aired a documentary on the role of chiropractic in drug rehabilitation programs titled “Wiped Out”.  The Medical Review Board at Discovery Health chose to produce the program after a research project by Jay M. Holder, D.C., on Torque Release Technique (TRT) appeared in the journal, Molecular Psychiatry.  The journal, published by NATURE, is rated second out of 80 journals in psychiatry, 10th out of 201 journals in neurosciences and 20th out of 295 journals in biochemistry and molecular biology, according to Journal Citation Reports, which rates peer-reviewed journals.

The television documentary examines the role of the subluxation in addiction and compulsive disorders as well as methods invented and used by Dr. Holder at the Exodus Treatment Center in Miami Beach, Florida.  When Holder performed the first government-funded study in auriculotherapy to determine its outcome in addiction patients, he discovered that auriculotherapy could electronically detect both the ear points necessary for treatment but also the chiropractic interventions that were indicated.  In addition, the study led to his discovering the limbic system point.  This led him to collaborate with researchers in human genetics and Neuro-pharmacology in support of the Brain Reward Cascade theory, and help establish the Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) as a biogenic model.  The Brain Reward Cascade and RDS explain how persons can manifest a deficiency in their state of well-being, which interferes in their potential and quality of life. This work was eventually published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.


What is Auriculotherapy?

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