Acupuncture needles are very different to the hypodermic needles used in Western Medicine, they are not hollow nor do they slice through the skin and muscle. Instead, they have a conical shaped tip, parting the skin and muscle as the needle glides into the acupuncture point. This means that there is little to no discomfort when the needle is inserted. When Qi is drawn to the needle the patient can often feel a dull ache, though this may feel a bit uncomfortable, it doesn't last long and indicates that the point is active. When the needle is withdrawn, due to its design, the skin then seals up behind it. Acupuncture needles are single-use, sterile, and made of stainless steel, therefore they do not break or cause infection.
Acupuncture works on rebalancing the Qi flow within the meridians. By inserting needles into specific points on the body we can either remove blockages, or help redirect Qi to where its needed to restore balance to the body. From a Western Medical perspective, it is believed to work on parts of the nervous system, which can then influence everything from controlling inflammation, to re-balancing hormones. The end result is the same though, a return to equilibrium and restoring your inner health.
The ear is what we call a microcosm of the body. All areas of the body are represented and can be treated through the ear. Just like in reflexology they use the foot or hand. Korean Acupuncture for example has over 300 points just on the hand. There are 100 commonly used acupuncture points on the ear. A lot of western research has been performed on Ear Acupuncture. It has been shown highly useful for anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress and weight loss. The effectiveness of Ear Acupuncture is believed to be caused by its close proximity to the brain, the large number of nerve endings in it, and the fact that it is the first sense organ to develop on a young fetus. In Chinese Medicine, the ear has strong connections to your Kidney energy, which is the basis of life and long term health and fertility.
Very fine needles are used to stimulate points on the ear, and little press tabs are stuck to the ear so the patient can massage the points whenever they feel stressed for example, to further benefit their overall treatment.
This is the process whereby a small bundle of herb is burnt either on the end of the needle or over the skin of an acupuncture point. The most classic example of this is burning moxa over the little toe to rotate a breech baby. Moxa is used to help strengthen the function of a point and used in areas which are deficient or blocked by cold such as chronic back pain or prolonged digestive weakness.
Similarly to how people like to put wheat bags over their stomachs or shoulders when sore; the heat from the moxa travels down the needle directly into the acupuncture point to help provide additional warmth and movement to the local area. This is a highly effective way to alleviate pain or help invigorate circulation in the case of a frozen shoulder or menstrual pain.