Auricular Acupuncture

Auricular acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine, sterile single-use needles are inserted at specific points in the ear for therapeutic or preventative purposes. Acupuncture is often seen as a form of complementary or alternative medicine.

What can auricular acupuncture help with?

Intended benefits of treatment includes

•       Reduction of pain

•       Alleviation of muscle spasm and tension

•       Facilitation of the healing process

•       Induction of local and general relaxation

•       Promotion of general well-being

•       Improvement of sleep pattern

How does it work?

Traditional acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or "life force", flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced "chee").

Practitioners who use acupuncture in the traditional way believe that when Qi does not flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. They also believe acupuncture can restore the flow of Qi, and so restore health.

A course of acupuncture usually creates longer lasting pain relief than when a single treatment is used.

What should I expect?

An initial acupuncture session usually lasts 20 minutes to 1 hour and involves an assessment of your general health, medical history and a physical examination, followed by insertion of the acupuncture needles.

Courses of treatment often involve several separate sessions, but this can vary.

The needles are inserted into specific places on the ear, which practitioners call acupuncture points.

During the session, you'll usually be asked to sit or lie down. 

The needles used are very fine and are usually a few centimetres long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use.

Acupuncture practitioners choose specific points to place the needles based on your condition. Several points may be used during a typical session, depending on the number of symptoms you have.

The needles may be inserted just under the skin.  Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for a length of time lasting from a few minutes up to around 30 minutes.

Does it hurt?   No. Acupuncture needles are so fine that the prick of the needle as it goes through the skin is barely felt. As the needle begins to affect the Qi (energy) of the body an unusual sensation may be felt – like numbness or a tingling sensation.  you should not experience any significant pain. If you do feel any discomfort, let your practitioner know straight away.

What should I do before a session?  

It is important to ensure you have eaten up to two hours prior to treatment. 

Long hair needs to be tied back to prevent interference with the points. 

If you have a bleeding disorder, such as haemophilia, or are taking anticoagulants, talk to your GP before you have acupuncture.

Acupuncture is also not usually advised if you have a metal allergy or an infection in the area where needles may be inserted.

It's generally safe to have acupuncture when you're pregnant. However, let your acupuncture practitioner know if you're pregnant because certain acupuncture points cannot be used safely during pregnancy.

Possible adverse effects

The following are the known (based on research evidence) possible adverse effects associated with acupuncture, your therapist will discuss these with you and explain if you are at any enhanced risk.

•       Bleeding and Bruising (3%)

•       Mild aggravation of symptoms (3%, of which 70-85% show subsequent improvement)  Mild Pain at the needle site (1%)

•       Drowsiness (1%)

•       Dizziness (0.6%)

•       Pain not at needle site (0.5%)

•       Nausea (0.3%)

•       Feeling faint (0.3%)

•       Stuck or bent needle (0.1%)

•       Headache (0.1%)

•       Allergy or infection (up to 0.2%)

•       Pneumothorax (0.0002%/ less than 2 per 1 million)


Although acupuncture in an established procedure, there may be other adverse effects that have not been recorded. If you experience any of the above or notice anything unusual about your health following your treatment, then you should contact your therapist or GP straight away.