New York City acupuncturist Sara Vaccariello says she’s seen ear acupuncture used to treat PTSD, athletic injuries, infertility and—what Vaccariello says is the most common reason she sees today—in withdrawal and detox treatment.
Acupuncturist Monica Sarrat and yoga teacher Ansley Herndon, both based in California, even run “yoga puncture” workshops that combine restorative yoga and ear acupuncture in one session. “The ear acupuncture is meant to sustain the changes that were making with the restorative yoga,” says Sarrat. “People are leaving and feeling good up to a week after because were targeting the nervous system.”
However, the effects of ear acupuncture depend on the individual and how they physically react to the procedure. “After the first treatment, as a baseline, I always recommend three to five treatments,” says Vaccariello. “We have to know how your body responds to it, and we want to continue on that path for a little bit. Then, if there’s some relief or some improvements, but nothing optimal, we need to tailor that in a set schedule of time to inform your body on how to heal itself.”
13 Things You Never Knew About Back Pain:
But those who have never tried ear acupuncture might wonder: Are there any health risks that come with having needles inserted into your ears? According to Jingduan Yang, M.D., founder of Yang Institute of Integrative Medicine and author of Facing East: Ancient Health and Beauty Secrets for the Modern Age, there aren’t any major downsides—but patients should be aware that there is a higher chance of infection. “The ear is very sensitive and doesn’t have a lot of blood circulation, so you have to be more careful about infections,” he says. “You just have to be really clean with the needles.” (As acupuncturists should be in the first place.)
If you’re interested in trying out ear acupuncture or any other form of acupuncture, Vacariello recommends doing your research on whomever you decide to see. Make sure they’re board certified and licensed, she says. (Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women’s Health’s 12-Week Total-Body Transformation!)
“Acupuncture in itself can’t cure everything and Western medicine can’t cure everything, but I think where we’re headed toward an integrative style of medicine in our culture is how we can best help people,” says Vaccariello. “I think that’s the answer. Ear acupuncture plays a big part of that because it’s a way that acupuncture can treat, whether standalone or other parts of the body.”