Nearly 1 in 6 adults worldwide may suffer from chronic constipation and, over time, the disorder can cause serious complications. Auriculotherapy, a form of acupuncture that involves stimulating targeted points on the outer ear, may help in managing constipation. Evidence from numerous clinical studies published between 2007-2013 that evaluated the effectiveness of auriculotherapy in treating patients with constipation is presented and discussed in a Review article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine website until September 25, 2014.
Li-Hua Yang and coauthors from the Hospital of Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Jiangsu Province Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Southeast University School of Public Health, Nanjing, China, analyzed the results of 17 published studies, comparing the effectiveness of auriculotherapy in managing and relieving constipation and in alleviating symptoms associated with constipation between affected patients and a control group.
The authors present their data and conclusions in the article “Efficacy of Auriculotherapy for Constipation in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.”
About the Journal
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine is a monthly peer-reviewed journal publishing observational, clinical, and scientific reports and commentary intended to help healthcare professionals and scientists evaluate and integrate therapies into patient care protocols and research strategies. Complete tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine website.
What is Auriculotherapy?
Auriculotherapy is the stimulation of the auricle of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions in other parts of the body. It is also known as ear acupuncture or auricular acupuncture when the stimulation is achieved by the insertion of acupuncture needles, whereas the term auriculotherapy often refers to electrical stimulation of the surface of ear reflex points. Specific points on the ear can also be stimulated by manual pressure, referred to as auricular acupressure or ear reflexology. Acupuncture points on the ear can also be stimulated with lasers, magnets, and ear pellets.
How is Auriculotherapy different from Acupuncture?
Auriculotherapy is typically considered one form of acupuncture, but there are both differences and similarities between the two procedures. Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment involving the stimulation of acupuncture points located on energy channels extending over the surface of the body, which are known as meridians. From the philosophy of Taoism, there are six Yang meridians and six Yin meridians. In classical acupuncture, it is the Yang meridians that directly connect to the external ear. These energy lines of force are blocked or congested when there is some pathology in a specific area of the body. Insertion of acupuncture needles into specific acupoints can relieve the symptoms and underlying pathology of a particular health problem. Some of the meridian energy lines of force connect to the external ear, thus creating the field of auricular acupuncture. Different perspectives of auriculotherapy focus not on the acupuncture meridians but on the use of the ear as a localized reflex system connected to the central nervous system.
About the Publisher
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Medical Acupuncture, Brain and Gut, and Journal of Medicinal Food. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry’s most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm’s 80 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers website.
Who discovered Auriculotherapy?
While the earliest uses of ear acupuncture points dates back to ancient China, modern applications of auriculotherapy are based on the work of Dr. Paul Nogier of Lyon, France. In the 1950’s, Dr. Nogier noticed a strange scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. He found that all of them had been treated for sciatica pain by a local lay practitioner. This woman had cauterized a specific area of the external ear in order to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted a similar procedure on his own sciatica patients and found that their back pain was also reduced. He then tried other means of stimulating this “sciatica point,” including the use of acupuncture needles, and found that they too were effective in alleviating sciatica pain. The brilliance of Dr. Nogier was in extending this one observation into a more comprehensive model. Dr. Nogier theorized that if an area of the upper external ear is effective in treating low back pain, maybe other parts of the ear could treat other parts of the body.
The ear is said to represent the whole anatomical body, but in an upside down orientation. Nogier’s theory contended that the auricle could be compared to an inverted fetus, with the head represented on the lower ear lobe, the feet at the top of the external ear, and the rest of the body in-between. This model was first presented to naturopathic practitioners in France in 1957, then spread to acupuncturists in Germany, and finally was translated into Chinese. The Chinese seemed to have adopted the inverted fetus model of ear acupuncture in 1958.
How is Auriculotherapy related to other forms of Alternative Medicine?
Auriculotherapy is considered one form of alternative medicine, which also includes acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, homeopathy, and biofeedback. All of these techniques are also referred to as Complementary Medicine, in that they are not only an alternative to conventional Western medical treatments, they can serve as an additional procedure which complements the practice conventional medicine. Auriculotherapy can reduce the tension, stress, and pain not fully relieved by other medical procedures, but works best when implemented as part of a multidisciplinary complement of multiple treatment approaches. While ear acupuncture is often used in conjunction with body acupuncture, auriculotherapy can also effectively relieve pain, stress and tension when used by itself.
Is Auriculotherapy accepted by Conventional Western Medicine?
While ear acupuncture has been practiced in Asia for over 2,000 years and auriculotherapy has been used in continental Europe for the past 40 years, it is only recently been considered by most medical doctors in the United States. Most MD’s do not have sufficient information about auriculotherapy to make an informed comment on its effectiveness. In November of 1997, a consensus panel of the U.S National Institutes of Health gave conditional approval of the practice of acupuncture. They included an evaluation of those studies which supported the use of ear acupuncture for pain relief and addiction treatment. As more research accumulates on the efficacy of auriculotherapy, it is expected that even more physicians will acknowledge the benefits of auriculotherapy.