How Does Auriculotherapy Work?

Methods of ear stimulation have included needles, seeds, laser, moxibustion, magnetic and electrical methods.  Stimulation of the ear points is thought to access the central nervous system through effects on the cranial nerves.  The ear points can cause the brain to release endorphins and initiate the pain relief and other effects.

Ear acupuncture is recorded in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which was compiled around 200 BCE.  In the west, Hippocrates also mentioned auriculotherapy.  Auricular therapy has been used for 2500 years for treating diseases, including in Europe.   It was only after 1957 that the international community became more aware of the potential of this therapy, and it underwent a more systemic development.  In the 1950’s ear acupuncture was developed more in France by Dr. Nogier.

Battlefield acupuncture is an auriculotherapy protocol used by the military, to help with pain, especially since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Military medics use a specific semi-permanent needle. This is especially helpful in reducing dependence on opioids and multiple medications.   A recent review and meta review indicate that auricular acupuncture has a significant reduction in pain scores and suggests it could play a role in any emergency department.

The NADA protocol was developed by Michael Smith in New York, as part of the drug detoxification center of Lincoln Hospital.  NADA is known as a form of “acudetox” to support substance abuse treatment and recovery.  The NADA protocols have been used in drug courts across the United states, as well as across the globe, to help with long term recovery maintenance, especially relative to help with stress reduction, improving sleep and coping ability.   The NADA protocol is also used by the organization Acupuncturists without Borders.  The group goes into areas with natural disasters, e.g. such as Hurricane Katrina and the huge earthquakes in Haiti.  This protocol allows quick treatment of large numbers of people.