German Auricular Acupuncture now offered at Carp Ridge Natural Health Clinic for the treatment of pain and neuromusculoskeletal conditions.
By Carole Martin, BSc, DC, CHC
I am excited to share something that is new and good that is happening in my practice. I am introducing German Auricular (or Ear) Acupuncture as an adjunct to chiropractic care for the treatment of acute and chronic pain, migraines, headaches, neurological and many other musculoskeletal conditions.
I was first introduced to German Auricular Acupuncture in 2011 by one of my colleagues, Erna Robertson, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner on Salt Spring Island, BC. I went to see Erna in her home office after she had taken her first course in German Auricular Acupuncture. At that time there was only a handful of practitioners using this therapy in Canada. I went to her office to see if she could help my chronic hip pain which was severe and which had persisted for several years, despite all my best efforts. I had seen many practitioners including chiropractors, osteopaths and massage therapists without success and so was discouraged and believed I would just have to “live with it”. As soon as she put needles in my ears, I could actually feel a warming sensation in my hip…I stood up from the treatment table and had no pain…I was amazed at the result. I was pain free for four days after the initial visit. I have been pain free ever since the second visit.
How does it work?
As most of us know, acupuncture is one of the oldest and most widely spread healing methods in the world. According to traditional Chinese medicine, life energy circulates through the body along channels of energy through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers and streams flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish all of the body’s tissues and cells. An obstruction or blockage in the movement of energy in these meridians is like a dam that backs up which then causes pain and other symptoms. Each meridian is related to a specific organ and usually covers an extensive but very specific area of the body. The course of a specific meridian within the body can explain why, for example, a disturbed gallbladder meridian can lead to headaches and a disturbed kidney meridian causes low back and knee pain.
A specific meridian is influenced by needling acupuncture points which are found along its course– the needles unblock the “dams” and re-establish the regular flow through the meridian, and thus reduce or eliminate pain and other symptoms and restore balance and health in the associated organ. The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system and causes the release of chemicals and hormones that change the experience of pain and reduce inflammation.
German Auricular Acupuncture is a special form of acupuncture. It was developed in the 1950s by the French physician, Dr. Paul Nogier. He discovered that the surface of the ear reflects all parts of the body and is a precise map of the whole human system. All structures and tissues of the body are accessible through the ear “map”, even structures that are not accessible with body acupuncture, such as parts of the brain or inner scars. Basically, the ear tells the whole story of our body’s current conditions and gives us access to our nervous system directly.
This access to our nervous system is important because when pain messages continue for long enough, it can result in changes to the central nervous system… in effect it becomes a habit or a learned dysfunction. There has been a lot of research recently about the plasticity of the brain… its ability to create new pathways after the destruction of old ones. Unfortunately, chronic pain is an example of the negative side of neural plasticity as the pain becomes a learned, neurological pain pattern. Because of this, chronic pain syndromes pose difficult challenges to us as health practitioners – unfortunately, in many cases we fail to help people with this condition.
German auricular acupuncture is one of the most effective treatment options for chronic pain because of its ability to stimulate the central nervous system specifically, directly and without harm. It can send corrective message to pain pathways, stimulates analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, rebalances hormones and cardiovascular homeostasis, and balances the emotional centres of the brain.
Finding blockages to healing
In the course of my work as a chiropractor, it has not always been clear why some patients heal well while others do not recover from injury or respond to care in the same way.
Probably the most important benefit of German Auricular Acupuncture is its ability to identify and treat blockages to healing or “focal disturbances”. Focal disturbances are blockages or obstacles to the healing process and often not related to our current symptoms. They apply to chronically irritated or inflamed tissue, old internal or external scars, and an overload of a toxic substance or psychological stress.
These focal disturbances or blockages explain why, for example, a knee injury in “patient A” heals within a few weeks without complications, while all therapeutic efforts are ineffective in knee “patient B”? Even if both patients have similar injuries, are about the same age and seem to be in a similar physical condition. In this example, “patient B” had a focal disturbance, which is interfering with the body’s ability to heal itself. The concept of blockages or focal disturbances also explains why a scar on the leg may interfere with a recovery from a shoulder injury, and in some cases may even cause the problem in the shoulder.
One way of explaining this phenomenon is by using the example of a shopping bag that already contains a heavy weight (a blockage or unhealed body area). By adding items to the bag during the shopping trip (normal daily stress), the weight of the bag becomes a burden. If another heavy item is then added on top of that (e.g. any additional strain to the body, such as a neck injury from a motor vehicle accident or the common cold) the bag might become too heavy to be carried and symptoms may ensue or persist.
Another way of explaining this is the image of a bucket that is slowly filling up. Genetic predisposition, environmental factors, substance sensitivity and psychological stress individually can be dealt with by our healing mechanisms. However, the sum of all those loads causes the bucket to overflow, or the body to become overwhelmed. The result is either the inability to heal, pain or disease.
These blockages or focal disturbances render the body largely unresponsive to either conventional or complementary therapies. For example, when repeated chiropractic or acupuncture treatments are unsuccessful or only bring a few hours of relief, it can be assumed that there is a blockage or disturbance somewhere in the body.
What can I expect?
Examination is carried out by looking for “active” points on the ear. Only dysfunctional tissues/structures of the body will show up actively on their corresponding points on the ear. These points are tender and have a lower resistance than the surrounding skin area so they can be found by pressure, with an electrical point finder, or with the more advanced methods of using the pulse. This means that the ear is a window to what is happening right now in the entire human system.
Treatment is performed by needling or using electrical stimulation to the “active” points on the ear. Children are not needled but treated by sticking a tiny gold or silver pellet on the surface of the ear.
Some patients feel immediately relieved, others need several days (about four to five treatments) before they notice an improvement. Some people feel as if they were walking on air after the treatment, and almost all feel very relaxed afterward.
Of course, if the pain is due to a degenerative structure (degenerative hip joint disease) then this cannot be undone. However, acupuncture treatment can increase the blood flow to the joints and thus alleviate the pain.
Carole Martin, BSc, DC, CHC
Carp Ridge Natural Health Clinic
2386 Thomas Dolan Pkwy
Carp, ON, K0A 1L0