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Ear Acupuncture in Traumatic Events

(Excerpts edited from Laura Cooley's article and also from

Ear acupuncture can be used on all those who may be involved in a traumatic incident:

  • Survivors,
  • Mental health staff,
  • Police and emergency personnel

This community style of acupuncture is well suited to conditions faced in a disaster. It can be set up almost anywhere and immediately treat large groups of people. No special facilities are needed and treatment is easily integrated into a wide range of settings - hospitals, outdoor clinics in disaster situations, on a curbside, while people are waiting in line for other services.

Ear AcupunctureTreatments last 30 minutes and are given while people sit fully clothed in a chair. Under NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocols the needles are primarily inserted in the ear. The NADA protocol is an effective way to help people facing enormous stress, anger, frustration, depression, fatigue, and other emotional and physical pain. This protocol has been identified as being effective over a 30 year history and is used in over thousands of programs around the world.

It is very economical: One acupuncturist can treat up to 10-20 people in an hour.

The therapeutic effects happen quickly and can last a long time. Bessel van der Kolk, reknowned trauma expert, has shown that the emotional overload of traumatic experience can cause a blocking of verbal access and ability. These simple acupuncture treatments can have a calming and transformative effect without requiring the traumatized client to talk. They can be in an extreme state of dissociation and still benefit. It is a non-verbal treatment, requiring almost no verbal interaction in order to be received and delivered.

Done in groups, community-style acupuncture can help break the isolation often felt after traumatic events. Even those who resist traditional treatment for Acute Stress Disorder are often willing to receive acupuncture. Treatments support the rebuilding of strength and resiliency, essential for the recovery process.

Ear acupuncture was used by St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan following the events of 9/11 as a way of reducing insomnia and offering relief to medical staff, city residents and emergency personnel. It is currently offered at all five New York City Firehouse counseling centers, as well as at multiple sites in New York City through St. Vincent's Hospital. It works well as an outreach tool to bridge emergency personnel to other services as needed, as well as those having suffered traumatic events.

Among hundreds of international programs using ear acupuncture are:

  • Dakota reservations in the aftermath of a series of tornadoes
  • Search and rescue personnel as a de-stressing, revitalizing and coping tool
  • Brigades to Honduras after a hurricane displaced 2 million people
  • Refugee camps in Burma
  • Refugees in the US suffering from PTSD

Community-style acupuncture can provide immediate "treatment on demand" without lengthy intake or wait. Those receiving treatment do not have to wait to feel its impact, as relaxation generally occurs within minutes. Survivors of traumatic events report acu detox to be useful in alleviating symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder. Recipient surveys show:

  • Increased mental clarity.
  • Improved ability to cope.
  • Improved alertness.
  • Improved ability to sleep.
  • Reduction of aches, pains and muscle spasms.
  • Reduction of depression and anxiety.
  • Reduction of intrusive recall.

Physically it appears to assist endogenous endorphin production, as well as to stimulate neurotransmitter activity leading to increased capacity to cope with stress, and often releasing the hyper-vigilant state. Many pain syndromes and muscular spasms can be improved and/or alleviated. It appears to stimulate the immune system, as white blood cells are activated via needle insertion.


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Updated January 26, 2006 by