Ear Therapy Eases Pain and Stress

Ear Therapy Eases Pain and Stress

If the last time someone pricked your ears was when you got them pierced, listen up: Auricular therapy (or "ear therapy") uses techniques like electrical stimulation, acupuncture, and acupressure on the external ear to relieve a surprising number of psychological problems and physical ailments all over the body. Developed in the 1950s by Paul Nogier, a French acupuncturist, ear therapy has since become a distinct category within acupuncture.

How it works
According to practitioners, various points on the outer ear correspond with specific organs and body functions, and stimulating those points accesses the central nervous system to get to problem spots. For example, if you have a tension headache, you can squeeze the antihelix (the middle ridge) section of the ear for relief.

What research shows
Studies suggest that ear treatment, either on its own or in conjunction with whole-body acupuncture, can help ease psychobehavioral problems like anxiety, depression, or stuttering, and medical ailments such as gout, asthma, and gastrointestinal disorders, says Bryan Frank, M.D., a specialist in anesthesia, pain medicine, and medical acupuncture based in Dallas, Tex. A 2006 study published in the Oxford Journal of Human Reproduction found that auriculotherapy (as it is also known) reduced the intensity of pain for women going through in vitro fertilization.

A typical session
You lie down or sit in a chair, fully dressed, and a therapist uses a mechanical probe to determine the "problem" points on your ear, which are then stimulated manually or with needles or an electrical instrument. The treatment doesn’t hurt, though you may feel light pressure. Most practitioners suggest eight to 10 treatments (each session is 20 to 45 minutes) for specific ailments such as anxiety. To help you quit an addiction like sugar or cigarettes you may need up to 12 treatments. To find a practitioner, see medicalacupuncture.org or auriculotherapy.org.

Try this at home
Linda Davis, a licensed acupuncturist in Arlington, Mass., suggests the following self-massage of your ear for a head–to–toe boost:
1. Start with the lower lobe , which is associated with your head and neck. Massage by rubbing, jiggling, or pressing the lobe on both sides.
2.Work your way up the back part of the ear, over the helix, the curved rim that stands out. According to the teachings of auricular therapy, the helix is related to the circulatory system and the flow of energy in the body.
3. Move to the antihelix, just beneath the helix, which is associated with the spine, arms, and legs.
4. Then, massage inside and around the sidewalls of the cavum, the two most recessed areas near the front of the ear, which correspond to the internal organs.
5. To finish, run your finger along the cresent–shaped crus of the helix, to bolster your digestive system.