Most of my patients know that I am a fan of auricular acupuncture – needling acupuncture points in the ear. Many have squirmed when told that I’m heading for their ears next. “My ears?! But I don’t have any ear problems.” Well rest assured, dear patients, there IS a method to my madness. Auricular points are used for far more than treating ear problems. Like the hand or foot in traditional reflexology, the ear is a microsystem representing your entire body. There are points on your ears for everything, from your neck and back, to your liver and heart. There are even a few points for your ears on your ears!
We in the needle poking biz view the ear as an upside down fetus. The head is imaged on the earlobe, with the spine extending up the curve of the ear. The number of auricular points and exact imaging varies slightly between acupuncture styles, but all in all, the inverted fetus reference is widely accepted. Because the entire body is represented on the ear, ear points provide an effective way to treat areas that may be difficult to access, depending on a patient’s position or mobility. They are also ideal when the area you’re targeting is too sensitive to needle directly, such as a surgery site or fracture. In fact, there are practitioners who successfully treat their patients needling ONLY ear points. And here’s a fun fact: The “eye point”, located in the center of the earlobe, happens to be the point traditionally pierced for earrings, and rumor has it, that is not a coincidence. Pirates began piercing that point long ago to improve their vision when scanning the horizon for land or ships. It seems that even the sea bandits were microsystem- savvy!
In addition to needling auricular points, applying ear seeds, or beads, to the points is another powerful way to treat the body. The seeds vary in style from actual plant seeds to tiny metal beads, which are taped over specific points. The tape provides enough pressure to maintain light acupressure on the selected points, and to enhance their effect, I teach patients how to squeeze the seeds for stronger stimulation when needed. They can be left in for 1-2 weeks at a times, and allow for treatment to continue long after leaving the clinic.
I find auricular acupuncture to be as fascinating as it is effective. Who’d have guessed that you can relieve hip pain by squeezing your ear! So the next time I’m poking around in your ear, ask me what point I’m needling. You may be surprised to find that you will feel changes in the related area of your body.