Ear acupuncture has a large body of scientific evidence backing its effectiveness . This clinically proven treatment approach is an efficient method for treating a wide number of conditions including weight loss, stress-related disorders, insomnia and addiction withdrawal. Auricular acupuncture can be very effective when stopping smoking and it can be used for withdrawal from any addiction.
Auricular Acupuncture is the term for the specialized practice of acupuncture done on the ear. The ear has a complete map of the body from head to toe, and as such, the can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Some practitioners only use ear points for treatment while others use both body and ear points to get the best results possible. In either case, it should be noted that ear acupuncture is powerful enough to be applied as a stand-alone treatment and there is ample research to support this idea. 
Although needles are the primary treatment method in auricular acupuncture, “ear seeds” can also be used to stimulate reaction areas on the ear. Ear seeds are used to stimulate pressure points when they are attached (with tape) to the outer surface of the ears. The advantage of ear seeds is that they continue to produce an effect over the course of 2 or more days. These seeds are tiny pellets (vaccaria seeds) are applied on a small piece of tape to the ear. Using the ear map, seeds are placed in the area of the ear that best treats the patient’s condition.
One of the advantages of auricular acupuncture is how easily it integrates into a wide range of settings from hospitals to emergency clinics. Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) is an American group that uses ear acupuncture to provides support when traumatic events occur. AWB provided trauma care for both relief workers and victims after Hurricane Katrina and in St Vincents Hospital in Manhattan in 2001. Ear acupuncture treatments are easily given while people are seated and fully clothed, making it an ideal treatment method when resources are limited.
Patients receiving auricular treatment do not have to wait long to experience the benefits. A relaxation response generally occurs within minutes! Post-treatment surveys show increased mental clarity, reduced stress, improved sleep quality, reductions in pain, and lower anxiety.
Various Trigger Point Referral Patterns
Dry Needling is an therapeutic technique that was developed by Dr Janet Travell and recently popularized by Acupuncturists and Physical Therapists in Australia, Canada and the US. In California, only Licensed Acupuncturists and MDs can legally perform this powerful technique so there are very few practitioners trained in this art of trigger point release.
While some states allow Physical Therapists to perform Dry Needling, the medical board in California concluded that Dry Needling is, in fact, acupuncture. Therefore, Dry Needling can only be performed by Licensed Acupuncturists and MDs in California. This legal decision serves to best protect public safety – as many states allow Physical Therapists to practice Dry Needling after attending as little as 16 hours of class (2 days)! In comparison, Licensed Acupuncturists take over 3,000 hours of coursework, and most of this study time is dedicated to mastering the use of the acupuncture needle.
In Dry Needling practice, an acupuncture needle is inserted into a local area of muscle tension called a “Trigger Point”. Unlike traditional acupuncture, the treatment method in Dry Needling is strictly based on the anatomy of muscles and/or nerve pathways effected. As such, there is no discussion of “Qi”, “Meridians”, or other aspects of ancient Chinese philosophy. Because Dry Needling takes a pure Western approach most patients feel more comfortable with the treatment and better understand the reasoning behind this therapy. Unlike traditional acupuncture, Western-minded patients generally feel like they have a better understanding of why the treatment is being performed and how it is expected to help resolve the problem.
When Dry Needling is performed, a hair-thin acupuncture needle used. Most patients will not feel the needle penetrate the skin, but there may be a feeling of pressure when the trigger point is activated. If the muscle is currently in spasm with an active trigger point, the patient may feel a sensation like a muscle cramp or twitch. If the muscle responds to treatment with a small twitch movement, called a “twitch response”, this is generally a good sign and very helpful in resolving trigger points.
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In many cases, body pain is due to shortened muscles. When muscles are overused or overstressed they can develop areas of tension called trigger points. A trigger point may be experienced as a “muscle knot” or sometimes a radiating pain from a muscle into a joint area. These areas of muscular tension are the body’s way of trying protecting itself from further injury, however the end result can be a painful conditions that persists for years after the trigger point forms.
Traditional acupuncture can be very helpful in addressing muscular pain, however sometimes a more direct approach to muscular pain is more effective. A style of treatment called Trigger Point Dry-Needling is a modern anatomical approach to muscular pain and inflammation. Like acupuncture, dry needling is also performed using a solid filament needle. However, in the case of dry needling, a needle is inserted into muscle directly at a palpable myofascial trigger point. When a needle is inserted into a trigger point, sometimes the muscle will have a characteristic “twitch response” as the muscle relaxes and lengthens back to its healthy state. Generally the procedure involves repetitive manipulation of the needle in the myofascial trigger point in order to produce this local twitch response.
Why do Dry Needling?
First off, this method is generally more effective at relieving muscular pain than almost any other therapy. The results of dry needling can be immediate as the muscle is stimulated to lengthen and a muscular knot releases. Deactivation of trigger points can provide immediate relief from pain symptoms.
Another reason dry needling is especially effective where other treatment methods fail, is that dry needling can target muscular pain in deeper muscles of the body. Some deep muscle fibers are very difficult, if not impossible, to reach using massage and other manual therapies. Some of the deep muscle groups that are well treated by dry needling include the low back, buttock and deep shoulder muscles.
When Should I Expect to See Results?
Sometimes this method can provide immediate relief from pain symptoms. In other cases, the condition will take 1-2 days to respond to the treatment before there is a dramatic improvement. The response time will depend on the body part and muscular structure involved. After trigger points are relieved, the muscles can be trained to work with corrected range of motion.
The scientific basis of Acupuncture is now well understood. Let’s move on from esoteric discussions of “qi” and “meridians” as they relates to acupuncture. A short summary of the science is given below, the full article goes into even deeper into the science.
Acupuncture has been shown to act on several mechanisms in the body. Explaining these physiological mechanisms can become complicated, however the basis of acupuncture is quite simple: Acupuncture’s effect is dependent on the stimulation of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). This is confirmed by the fact that when nerves innervating acupoints are blocked acupuncture has no effect.
Research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system to release natural chemicals that alter hormonal output, pain response, and other biological processes. In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an extensive review and analysis of clinical trials involving acupuncture. According to this report acupuncture impacts the body on multiple levels, concluding it:
- Stimulates conduction of electro-magnetic signals, which can promote immune system cells or pain-killing chemicals.
- Activates the body’s endogenous opioid system, which may help reduce pain and induce better sleep quality.
- Stimulates brain centers including the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which modulate numerous body systems.
- Changes in the secretion of neurotransmitters and endocrine hormones, which may positively effect brain chemistry.
Read more on the full article.