Auricular acupuncture therapy, also called ear acupuncture, involves the placement of needles into a person’s ear. There are over 200 points in the ear that help to regulate internal organs, structures, and functions. The points in the ear are usually stimulated in addition to other acupuncture points on the body to help boost the effectiveness of treatment. Needles are never inserted into the auditory canal leading to the inner ear. The workspace used by the acupuncturist is the auricle or fleshy cartilage of the outer ear, also called the pinna.
It is very common for points in the ear to be stimulated beyond the regular acupuncture treatment. This is done with either ear seeds or ear tacks. The seeds are small seeds from the Vaccaria plant that are placed on the ear with a small piece of adhesive tape. Tacks are very small needles with adhesive backing. Both of these can be left in the ear for days after your treatment session. It boosts the effectiveness of treatment and assist with controlling symptoms between acupuncture treatments. Seeds can stay in up to two weeks while tacks will usually be left for up to one week.
Modern medical testing has shown that stimulating the points in the ear encourages the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s naturally occurring feel-good chemicals. This release could be part of its effectiveness for treating addiction and mood disorders. There is even a particular needle protocol called 5NP (five-point ear acupuncture protocol) used to help with detoxification and gives support with the emotional, physical, and psychological aspects of addictions and severe stress. However, ear acupuncture is also used for other conditions including obesity and pain.