The Theory of Ear Acupuncture

The relationship between the ear and the internal organs was recorded over 2,000 years ago in the Yellow Emperor’s Treatise on Internal Medicine, the Nei Ching. Although ear acupuncture in the treatment of disease has been described in many works since then, it is only in the past two decades that
it has come into common use throughout China.

The Anatomy of the Ear

A number of ear points are now considered effective for treating a wide variety of diseases, including obesity and drug addiction. Ear points are also being used for the relief of pain and for surgical analgesia. When disease is present elsewhere in the body, specific areas in the auricle may exhibit tenderness, changes in color, and decreased electrical resistance. Correspondences have been found between these points in the auricle and specific parts of the body. When the ear is viewed in an inverted position, its configuration can be compared to that of a fetus in utero. Using this schema for reference, 13 groups of points and their uses can be identi­fied . A number of ear points have the same names as classical points, and should not be confused with them. Shen Men is a case in point.

Essential Ear Points

Distribution and Location of Ear Points


The points along the helix are associated with the diaphragm, the lower segment of the rectum, the urethra, the external genitalia, the tonsils, and the apex of the auricle. Some of these points possess antiinflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Aurical Points

Scaphoid Fossa

These points are associated with parts of the upper extremi­ties, such as fingers, wrist, elbow, clavicle, and shoulder.

Crura Antihelicis Superior

These points are associated with component parts of the lower extremities, such as hip, knee, ankle, heel, and toes.

Crura Antihelicis Inferior

These points are associated with the buttocks, the sciatic nerve, and the sympatheticus.


These points are associated with the cervical, thoracic, and lumbo­sacral vertebrae, the neck, thorax, abdomen, and breasts.

Triangular Fossa

These points are associated with the pelvic organs: the uterus, external genitalia, the upper segment of the rectum, and the urethra. Shen Men is located here, i.e., at the bifurcation of the crura of the antihelix.

Cymba Conchae

These points are associated with the abdominal viscerae: the stomach, kidneys, large and small intestines, bladder, appendix, pancreas, gallbladder, duodenum, spleen, and the liver.

Cavum Conchae

These points are associated with the thoracic viscera; they include points for the heart, lungs, trachea, bronchi, mouth, esophagus, cardia, and upper and lower abdomen (San Chiao point).


These points are associated with the nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, adrenals, the external ear, and the apex of the tragus.


These points are associated with the head and include the brain­stem, occiput, vertex, forehead, mandible, parotid gland, subcortex, as well as the testes and ovaries. The brain point (see later) and Ping Chuan (anti­asthma point) are located here.

lncisura Intertragica

These points are associated with the endocrine organs and the eyes.

Auricular Lobule

These points are associated with the face. They include the tongue, palate, maxillary area, cheek, eyes, inner ear, and tonsils.


Three points here are associated with the upper, middle, and lower back. There are also points in the groove behind the ear; these exert a hypotensive effect.

The Most Commonly Used Ear Points

Subcortex: This point regulates functional body equilibrium and also exerts a sedative effect.

The Endocrine: This point regulates nervous tension and endocrine equilib­rium.

The Adrenals:  This point is useful for its antiallergic, antiinflammatory action and can reduce local swelling.. It also has an adrenocorticoid-like action.

San Chiao: This point regulates the functions of the viscera, the blood vessels, and the endocrine organs.

Sympatheticus: This point relieves smooth muscle spasm and decreases glandular secretions. It also has an atropine-like action.

Shen Men: This point has a sedative, analgesic, antiinflammatory and hypnotic action.

Kidney: This point exerts a tonic effect somewhat similar to that of Tsu San Li (178, ST 36).

Occiput: This point has a sedative, analgesic, and antiinflammatory action.

Principles of Point Selection

1. According to visceral involvement: Ear points for the stomach and spleen are used in the management of stomach pain; heart and small intestine points are used for heart and lung disease; and large intestine points are used for cough.

2. According to local manifestations: The shoulder point is used for shoulder pain, the knee point for knee pain, and the stomach point for gastric problems.

3. According to local tenderness: In such instances, the tender point at the site of tenderness is used. As an example, Lan Wei is used for appendicitis.

4. According to previous experience

The adrenal point is used to treat hypertension, and either Shen Men or the occiput point is used to induce analgesia. Ping Chuan is used for asthma; the subcortex point is used for neurological disorders; the endocrine point is used for endocrine disorders; and the sympatheticus point is used for pain caused by gastrointestinal disorders.

Methods Of Point Selection

By Pressure Locate

The most sensitive or “tender” point by pressing around the selected auricular area with a probe or the blunt end of the acupuncture needle. The affected area is where the patient feels soreness or pain at the touch of the probe. This tender spot is considered to be the reaction point for therapy.

By Electrical Detection

The ear acupuncture point has the property of low resistance. It can be detected with the use of an “electroexplorer for acu­puncture points.” Its location is that point at which the ammeter of the explorer reaches maximum, or when the electrical probe reaches the low electrical-resistance spot and causes the detector to emit an audible high frequency sound.

By Skin Appearance

Occasionally, the affected area of the ear may exhibit physical changes such as discoloration, excoriation, small black or red spots, and so on; these may be referred to as puncturing points. This is the least accurate of the three methods of point selection.


The technique is similar to that described for body acupuncture. When the ear point to be treated is determined, use local sterilization, then insert a
thin acupuncture needle, 0.5-1.0 inches in length, 32 gauge, either perpen­dicularly or obliquely. The needle should not penetrate through the cartilage of the ear. When it has been inserted, the patient is likely to experience the Teh Chi sensation of local soreness and distension. Use manual or electric stimulation and retain needle in position for at least 15-20 min. In most cases, treatment should be given either once daily or every other day.

Great care should be exercised when treating pregnant women. Ear acupuncture is contraindicated when frostbite or inflammation is present in the ear.

It is usual to select points on the same side as the disease to be treated. However, the opposite side may also be treated either simultaneously or alternately.

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