Auricular Therapy

Auricular Therapy

What is Auricular Therapy?

Auricular therapy is a relatively new (in Chinese Medicine terms) form of acupuncture and acupressure.  Although auriculotherapy has its historical origins in ancient China, Dr. Paul Nogier, M.D. of France has been the driving force behind the advancement of this treatment modality in modern acupuncture. Auricular therapy is a type of acupuncture based on the structure of the ear.  If you look at the shape of the ear, you will note that it looks much like an inverted baby, with the lobe of the ear being the head.   In the 1950’s, Dr. Paul Nogier, M.D., noted this unusual presentation and determined that the zones of the fetal shape corresponded to specific zone of the ear, and that by pressing on certain points, there would be a corresponding response in the body.

When the human body is formed, embryonic cells divide into three types of cells that eventually form all the skin, tissue, nerves and organs of the body.  These embryonic cells are the endoderm, ectoderm and mesoderm cells. Endodermic cells develop into the digestive tract, lung alveoli, pancreas, thyroid, and brain stem.  Mesoderm cells develop into the bones, connective tissue, blood vessels, kidney and ovarian parenchyma, cerebellum, and cerebral medulla. Ectoderm cells develop into the skin, thyroid and breast ducts, aspects of the pancreas, bronchi, cervix, renal pelvis, cerebral cortex, and others.  Through various studies over the years, Dr. Nogier helped bridge a gap between Eastern and Western medicine by discovering that the ear had hundreds of specific points that, when stimulated, would cause a reaction in our central nervous system and positively affect corresponding organs, glands, and musculoskeletal systems because the ear connects to endodermic, ectodermic and mesodermic tissue.  The ear essentially is a reflection of the entire body in micro form.

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How is Auricular Therapy different then normal acupuncture?

Unlike acupuncture body points that have a specific locus on the body that can always be detected, auricular points on the ear can only be detected (through physical examination or electrical conductivity testing) when there is a problem in the corresponding part of the body that relates to that portion of the ear.  This is because, as discovered by Dr. Nogier, when a particular area of the body is in distress, there will be a change in the pulse in the corresponding portion of the ear.  This is known as the Vascular Autonomic Signal (VAS).

When Dr. Nogier was doing his research, he found that when he stimulated certain points on the ear there was a corresponding change in the pulse at the radial artery on the wrist (where doctors often hold your wrist when they are taking your heart rate).  The VAS was studied and found to be measurable and repeatable using modern equipment.  Over time, by comparing the VAS of specific points in the ear when areas of the body were healthy to when they were not, it became possible to more fully map the points of the ear that corresponded to each area of the body.  As a result, the development of modern auriculotherapy (ear acupuncture) has been one of the greatest acupuncture tools developed to treat imbalances in the body.

Auricular Therapy
Auricular Therapy

We primarily use a device called a Point-O-Select at our clinic. This electronic device uses a small probe that we use to lightly touch the surface of the ear and measure the electrical resistance at various locations. We use this information to determine which points in the ear are underactive and overactive, and use the same Point-O-Select to stimulate the ear points with a mild electrical current (at frequencies specified by Dr. Nogier’s research). This outer ear stimulation not only targets the specific endodermic, ectodermic or mesodermic tissue, but it also stimulates the densely supplied nerve endings from the somatic nervous system and autonomic nervous system in the ears. Auricular acupuncture is considered to have a reflexive effect on various organs by regulating the function of the autonomic nervous system and by stabilizing the homeostatic function of the body. In short, think of the ear as a keyboard for the brain – one that we can use to stimulate various organs, musculoskeletal systems, and even specific portions of your brain.

The Vagus Nerve

A key component of all auricular therapy is balancing the vagus nerve – the nerve branch in the photo above that is in green. The vagus nerve controls the activity of the autonomic nervous system, which supplies the nerves to the organs, or other parts of our bodies, that work on auto-pilot. A few examples are: the cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems.  The vagus nerve also has an effect on smooth muscles, blood vessels, sweat glands, and the endocrine system.

When the vagus nerve is not functioning properly this can lead to a range of problems throughout the body. These problems can include digestive issues, heart palpitations, improper autoimmune responses, anxiety, depression, and more.  Various issues can affect the vagus nerve and cause it to malfunction, including:

  • injuries to the head, neck, or chest
  • chronic stress, inflammation, and nerve damage
  • conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease, and
  • lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and chronic sleep deprivation.

Vagus Nerve Disorders

When the vagus nerve is not working property it can cause a variety of nerve disorders:

  • Gastroparesis: Gastroparesis is a disorder that causes a delay in stomach emptying. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, bloating, and early satiety.
  • Neurogenic Bladder: A neurogenic bladder can have symptoms including urinary retention, incontinence, and other bladder issues.
  • Arrhythmia: Damage to the vagus nerve can cause irregular heartbeat, which is also known as an arrhythmia.
  • Tinnitus: If you have experienced a ringing in your ears on a regular basis, this can also be the result of vagus nerve damage or dysfunction.
  • Fibromyalgia: This is a very difficult disease to diagnose.  Some studies have found that a low vagal tone is indicative of inflammatory diseases like Fibromyalgia and by helping the vagus nerve function properly, there is an anti-inflammatory response that can help with the management of pain symptoms. The role of the vagus nerve in fibromyalgia syndrome – PubMed (
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): is a catchall condition characterized by bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits.

Migraines: Migraine is another disease that is difficult to diagnose and to treat.  There are a multitude of pharmacological methodologies now, many of which have little or no effect. However, in the spring of 2018, vegus nerve stimulation was FDA-cleared as an acute or abortive treatment for migraine.    Vagus Nerve Stimulation for Migraine and Cluster Headache | AHS (  If you are suffering from migraine pain, auricular therapy and the stimulation of the vagus nerve may have benefits for you

The ear provides endless options to treat any ailment in the body, but we typically find it most appropriate for:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Smoking cessation
  • Curbing other addictions and cravings
  • Brain fog
  • Pain
  • Insomnia and other sleep issues
  • Vagal nerve toning – auto-immune patients, patients with various ailments throughout their entire body, etc…

Auricular therapy is included in all acupuncture treatments (when appropriate) or can be booked online via our website as an a la carte service.

Care is taken to make sure that auricular therapy is not uncomfortable. Most patients describe the sensation as a light buzz or tingling sensation in the ear. We usually treat about 5-7 points in each ear, switching up some point stimulation locations on each side. Some patients say that they feel physical reactions in their body while receiving auricular therapy, but many experience the overall effects of the therapy later the same day. The most common feedback that we hear from patients is a deep feeling of relaxation and mental clarity, as if they had one of the best nights of sleep that night in a very long time.

While the Point-O-Select is the preferred way of stimulating the ear in our clinic, we do occasionally use acupuncture needles, ear seeds (round organic seeds under a tiny square adhesive used to provide acupressure to ear spots), and ASP (semi-permanent needles). We are trained on the NADA protocol to help curb cravings (smoking, alcohol, narcotics, sugar, etc…) and also are certified in Battlefield Acupuncture to use ear spots to reduce overall pain sensations in the entire body.

Ear Seeds

As noted above, ear seeds are tiny, round, organic seeds that are placed on an auricular acupressure point and then secured with an adhesive.  Unlike acupuncture, ear seeds are noninvasive so there is no risk of infection.  Through examination and testing, we check to see if there are points on the ear that have changed color, are very tender, or have swelling or changes in shape.  These are the points where the ear seeds can be placed.  Once in place we will explain how often to press on the spot to help relieve your symptoms.  Ear seeds can be used for a few minutes, a few hours or even a few days.

Ear seeds are attached to the ears by using an adhesive or medical tape. If you are allergic to latex or other adhesive substances, please let us know when we are discussing your treatment.

NADA Protocol

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) is an acupuncture training program specifically tailored to dealing with trauma, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  NADA protocols can:

  • reduce cravings for alcohol
  • reduce cravings for drugs, including nicotine,
  • help with withdrawal symptoms
  • promote calm
  • improve sleep quality
  • reduce agitation
  • relieve stress
  • calm emotional trauma
  • and help bring about inner calm and peace.

If you are struggling with addiction issues and are in the Lakewood, Wheat Ridge or surrounding cities, please contact us about what auricular therapy can do for you, to help you achieve a healthy mind and body!

Battlefield Acupuncture

The risks from opioid use are well known and where appropriate, it is always best to try to use non-pharmacological modalities for the management of pain.  Battlefield acupuncture first originated in China about 8,000 years ago.  It can provide immediate relief for acute and chronic pain, without the risk of addiction and therefore can be used more readily to help with post-operative pain, withdrawal symptoms, and injury recovery. The term was coined by Dr. Richard Niemtzow, the first full-time physician acupuncturist in the Armed Forces, who is credited with bringing battlefield acupuncture to the military in 2001.  It was found to be a critical modality for use in the field where it could be applied immediately.   A soldier treated with Battlefield Acupuncture would not have to wait hours for medications to take effect, or deal with potential side effects like drowsiness or allergic reactions, which could affect their ability to function in dangerous situations.

Battlefield Acupuncture is a selective therapy used to reduce overall pain in the body. We use our own professional discretion to determine if Battlefield Acupuncture is right for our patients (i.e. we do not simply want to take away pain if it will exacerbate the underlying issue).  We are happy to provide a free office consultation if you want to see if this therapy will work for you. On average, we have about an 80% success rate when using Battlefield Acupuncture, in taking any patient’s level of pain (on a scale of 0-10) and reducing it down to a 2/10 or lower before they leave the office.

While nothing beats an auricular treatment at our clinic, there is one amazing point that many of us can stimulate ourselves when we get overly stressed throughout the day. Located in the upper portion of our ear is a structure called the triangular fossa (outlined in green in the side graphic). Within the outer 1/3 of that structure is a point called Shen Men, or the “Divine Gate” point (depicted with the red dot). This point helps with a wide range of ailments including:

  • tranquilizing the mind,
  • alleviating stress,
  • easing tension and headaches,
  • reducing physical pain in the entire body,
  • lowering blood pressure, and more.

To stimulate this point, simply reach up and pinch the front and back of this ear point with your index finger and thumb and massage gently 4 to 5 times per day (or as needed). Take a few deep breaths as you stimulate the point and watch to see how it affects you. You may soon find that this miraculous point will be a must-have tool for your daily life.

If you are already looking for auricular therapy, or you would like to ask more questions, please contact us today.  We are most convenient for patients located in the Lakewood and Wheat Ridge areas of Colorado, but we are happy to treat anyone who needs us. Contact us today to see if we can help you!