After the nationwide huha created by the BBC’s promotion of auriculotherapy and AcuSeeds, it comes as a surprise to learn that, in Kent (UK), the NHS seems to advocate and provide this form of quackery. Here is the text of the patient leaflet:
Kent Community Health, NHS Foundation Trust
This section provides information to patients who might benefit from auriculotherapy, to complement their acupuncture treatment, as part of their chronic pain management plan.
What is auriculotherapy?
In traditional Chinese medicine, the ear is seen as a microsystem representing the entire body. Auricular acupuncture focuses on ear points that may help a wide variety of conditions including pain. Acupuncture points on the ear are stimulated with fine needles or with earseeds and massage (acupressure).
How does it work?
Recent research has shown that auriculotherapy stimulates the release of natural endorphins, the body’s own feel good chemicals, which may help some patients as part of their chronic pain management plan.
What are earseeds?
Earseeds are traditionally small seeds from the Vaccaria plant, but they can also be made from different types of metal or ceramic. Vaccaria earseeds are held in place over auricular points by a small piece of adhesive tape, or plaster. Applying these small and barely noticeable earseeds between acupuncture treatments allows for patient massage of the auricular points. Earseeds may be left in place for up to a week.
Who can use earseeds?
Earseeds are sometimes used by our Chronic Pain Service to prolong the effects of standard acupuncture treatments and may help some patients to self manage their chronic pain.
How can I get the most out my treatment with earseeds?
It is recommended that the earseeds are massaged two to three times a day or when symptoms occur by applying gentle pressure to the earseeds and massaging in small circles.
Will using earseeds cure my chronic pain?
As with any treatment, earseeds are not a cure but they can reduce pain levels for some patients as part of their chronic pain management programme.
What the authors of the leaflet forgot to tell the reader is this:
- Auriculotherapy is based on ideas that fly in the face of science.
- The evidence that auriculotherapy works is flimsy, to say the least.
- The evidence earseeds work is even worse.
- To arrive at a positive recommendation, the NHS had to heavily indulge in the pseudo-scientific art of cherry-picking.
- The positive experience that some patients report is due to a placebo response.
- For whichever condition auriculotherapy is used, there are treatments that are much more adequate.
- Advocating auriculotherapy is therefore not in the best interest of the patient.
- Arguably, it is unethical.
- Definitely, it is not what the NHS should be doing.