Auriculotherapy, or auricular therapy, or ear acupuncture, or auriculoacupuncture is a form of alternative medicine based on the idea that the ear is a microsystem which reflects the entire body, represented on the auricle, the outer portion of the ear. Conditions affecting the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient are assumed to be treatable by stimulation of the surface of the ear exclusively. Similar mappings are used in many areas of the body, including the practices of reflexology and iridology. These mappings were not originally based on or supported by any medical or scientific evidence, but rather clinical observation.
Auriculotherapy was first developed by the French neurologist Paul Nogier, publishing his results in 1957 with Treatise of Auriculotherapy. These developments were made using clinical trials based in a phrenological method of projection of a fetal Homunculus on the ear for reference of complaints and points for treatment. Dr. Nogier soon brought his discovery to the public, where members of the Chinese Army picked up the map and brought it back to the barefoot doctors. The ear map in China then was developed according to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, however, Nogier is still known in China as the “Father of Auriculotherapy”.
Nogier went on to discover the Vascular Autonomic Signal, a distinct change in the amplitude of the pulse, easily felt with the tip of the thumb at the radial artery. This mechanism, Nogier found, would only produce a signal upon the introduction of new information to the patient’s electromagnetic field. He was now working with the principle of matching resonance. He then found that he could use this signal to detect which points on the ear microsystem were active. This method is used in many applications of Auricular Medicine today.
Mapping the Ear
The Chinese ear map, developed from the original discoveries of Nogier, is a very full map of points. Some of these points differ from Nogier’s original map because of empirical variations though the years of application in Chinese Medicine.
Nogier was not satisfied with these inconsistencies between his map and what the Chinese doctors had found, so he then went on to develop a “theory of three phases”. According to this theory, for each stage of a how chronic a condition becomes the points on the ear move. This school of thought is known as French Auriculotherapy.
The developments made in Germany primarily by Dr. Frank Bahr and Dr. Beate Stritmatter have found the points on the ear to be consistently in the same location, regardless of the level of chronicity. German Auricular Medicine has developed into a highly precise system using frequencies to assess and treat conditions very specifically. This form of the medicine has integrated the Chinese meridian system and has mapped each one on the ear. The use of low level laser has been recently more widely used in the German form. Until 2002, the training in this form of the medicine was exclusively available to M.D.’s in Germany. Dr. Muriel Agnes of Vital Principle Institute in Nova Scotia, Canada brought Dr. Stritmatter to Canada in 2002 to train English-speaking health professionals.
As a relatively new medicine, auriculotherapy has not been researched as extensively as some other treatment methods. In the early 2000’s, Dr. David Alimi started doing research with fMRI to prove the specificity of the microsystem projected on the ear.
There are two schools of thought about how auriculotherpy and similar therapies help to control pain. The first theory comes from Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He discovered that tissue treated with needles released an elevated level of adenosine, a natural compound that the body uses as a local pain reliever. The other theory suggests that the needles stimulate nerves, causing an increase in endorphins. These endorphins block pain receptors in the brain, which in turn reduces the overall pain felt by a patient. The release of endorphins also has a calming effect on the patient.
In 1980, a double-blind experimentally controlled research study by the Department of Anesthesiology at UCLA School of Medicine‘s Pain Management Center conducted a research study by Richard J. Kroeuning M.D., Ph.D and Terry D. Oleson Ph.D. This study reported in the medical journal, PAIN, verified the scientific accuracy of ear diagnosis. There is a statistically significant level of 75% accuracy achieved in diagnosing musculoskeletal pain problems in study of 40 pain patients. 
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