My Surprises in Auriculotherapy
I first became aware of auriculotherapy during the Harvard Structural Acupuncture for Physicians course in 2004-2005. Dr. Bryan Frank gave us two introductory lectures. He pointed out that Dr. Paul Nogier had first become aware of the benefits of treatment of the ear for patients with sciatica. Right at that time, I was asked to do a neurological consultation for a patient admitted to my hospital for severe, refractory sciatica. I carried out my first auricular acupuncture treatment ever, following Nogier’s eventual adaptation of this protocol, and the same day the patient reported to me a “remarkable” improvement in his pain. His was discharged the next day. I was impressed with the potential of auriculotherapy.
Soon after that, a young woman came to my office for right pelvic pains. Years earlier, she had had right leg trauma necessitating an above knee amputation. She developed new pelvic pains after accidentally falling out of her wheelchair. At that time, an ED evaluation excluded significant new structural pathology. I wasn’t sure what I could offer her, so I proposed auriculotherapy. She had previously experienced painless phantom feelings of her missing limb, and I suspected a neurogenic basis for her new pelvic symptoms. I carried out a modified auricular protocol targeting the missing right lower extremity. As the patient was leaving my office, she said to me, “You know, since my amputation, I occasionally have had momentary phantom feelings of my leg. But since you put those needles in my ear, I feel my leg again, and it hasn’t gone away.” I found that statement astounding. Her pelvic pain got better.
After the Harvard course, I went on to spend a year in Paris (2007-2008), where I attended the Institute of Traditional Chinese Energetics and Acupuncture (IEATC). Towards the end of that year, I met Dr. David Alimi, who was then the director of the Inter-University Diploma Program in Auriculotherapy at the University of Paris XIII. He invited me to his clinic at the Gustav Roussy Institute, a large cancer hospital near Paris, and to his office. After spending two days with him, seeing many different applications of auriculotherapy, I asked him, “How can I go back to the United States knowing that this program is here?” I enrolled in the Paris program, which I completed in about 18 weekend trips over the next two years.
After that, a mother brought her 16-year-old daughter to my office with refractory, constant waking hiccups for several months. She had seen many specialists, had had many negative tests, and tried many medications, all unsuccessful. The girl sat in front of me, with constant hiccups. The only thing I could think of offering her was the University of Paris treatment protocol for hiccups. The patient and her mother were surprised at this suggestion, but were willing to try anything. I applied ASP needles to the appropriate points in both ears. The next week, I ran into her mother in my hospital. When I asked her how her daughter was doing, she said, “After you did the treatment the hiccups stopped completely. A few days later, they came back for one day, then went away again and have not come back.”
Around the same time a young woman came to me for persistent, atypical right V2 facial pain following palatal surgery. She could not tolerate anticonvulsant analgesic medications because they interfered with her job. A single ipsilateral auriculotherapy treatment with ASP needles gave her an immediate, thus far sustained, 90 percent relief.
Most recently, a woman came to me for frequent attacks of vertigo due to Meniere’s disease, which she had had for 45 years. She had monthly attacks despite diuretic therapy, one of which caused a fall and head injury. She wished to avoid ablative therapy, and came to me for medical acupuncture for vertigo. A single auriculotherapy treatment protocol with ASP needles reduced the frequency and intensity of her vertigo attacks by about 50 percent, and she continues to come for monthly treatments. Both she and her dentist husband were surprised. Their initial reaction reminded me of the famous statement made by surgeon John Collins Warren in 1846 at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the Ether Dome: “Gentlemen! This is no humbug.”
I am sure that many of my fellow medical acupuncturists have had similar, satisfying outcomes in their patients. To this day, I still react with wonder and amazement when some patients tell me about their surprisingly good responses with auriculotherapy. I recently became a member of the AAMA Board of Directors and Membership Committee because I believe that medical acupuncture has so much to offer and should be promoted to physicians and their patients.
I am looking forward to talking about “Auricular Acupuncture in Facial Pain” at our upcoming 2022 AAMA meeting in Cincinnati. I hope to see many of you there.
Gary Stanton, MD, FAAMA
AAMA Board of Directors