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Ear acupuncture


I have alot of experience with acupuncture. When I lived in San Francisco I received acupuncture treatment (mainly for arthtitic pain) from a real Chinese Doc who used electrical acupuncture. Now I live elsewhere and have just discovered ear acupuncture in a book that cites success for addiction using “electrical stimulation of acupuncture points in the ear” Would this be the same type of electrical acu I received in S.F?. I mean using electrodes attached to the needles. I understand that there may be no definitive answer. I just want to know if electrodes attached to needles are used comnonly or at all in ear acupuncture.


Each practitioner has their own preference when it comes to whether or not they use electric stimulation (for disclosure I don’t use it). The ears are particularly sensitive and electric stim tends to be pretty uncomfortable on ear points. I personally have not seen any clinical evidence that usage of electric stim makes any significant difference versus not using it. However there are a fair number of practitioners that do regularly use electrical stimulation and that would have more clinical experience using it than myself. I know some practitioners only use it for muscle pain, others use electric stim for all acupuncture. I learned in school electrical stimulation with scalp acupuncture was commonly used in China to treat stroke and other neurological conditions; which I have treated effectively in my own practice without using electrical stimulation.

As for the electrical stimulation itself yes it would very likely be the same. I am unaware of any special electric stim machine that would be for auricular acupuncture only.


First, it sounds like you are not a practitioner but you are intending on treating yourself - is that correct?

Yes, auricular acupuncture can use e-stim. For your situation, however, there are a few studies showing a newer auricular e-stim device being effective for psychological conditions (in this case depression) which might be useful and safer for you. The study mentioned uses a p-stim device which is designed to provide treatment over periods of days. Their site has some more studies and details.

Now all that said, there is no one way to treat a particular condition. And there are no “real” Chinese docs so to speak. There are practitioners who with certain techniques, diagnostic abilities and other approaches get better results than others, however. But there is nothing set in stone about this and even some masters have students who cannot replicate the results even with the same techniques. Chinese Medicine is as much as art form as it is a science…

For your personal issues, without proper diagnosis and a complete treatment plan you will most likely do less well overall than you would with proper treatment from a practitioner. I don’t even recommend practitioners treating themselves as it is too easy to miss things diagnostically.

Clinically, I don’t use auricular points or e-stim, relying on a different methodology for point selection and tuina - but that’s just me. There are, however, numerous studies showing in head-to-head comparisons that electro-acupuncture is more effective than standard acupuncture. But, again, these are studies which don’t often take into account or allow by their design a proper treatment method and point selection for the individual patients. For electro-acupuncture studies there are a few that I’ve written about that you might find interesting/useful:

High intensity electro better than low for knee osteoarthritis

How electroacupuncture helps to heal tissue

Electroacupuncture for inducing labor

Electroacupuncture for analgesia during biopsy

And to even it out, a study that found no difference between body and electro-acupuncture for depression.

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