Full Title: “General discussion of acupressure points around the ear easily accessed during canine massage and their gainable benefits”
Author: Kim Crowe
Date of Publication: March 12, 2018
Research Paper Text:
“General discussion of acupressure points around the ear easily
accessed during canine massage and their gainable benefits”
May 21, 2018
Canine massage practitioners can bring multiple benefits with intentional touch to relax the pet, work with fascia, stretch, move and open areas of the skin and body. Among these general benefits are the stimulation of acupressure and acupuncture points. Knowing that stimulation of these places along the body can potentially cause great benefit, can help remind us to focus and breathe with more intention here, thereby affecting much more than just where our hands lay.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, acupuncture is “an originally Chinese practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specific points especially to cure disease or relieve pain” and acupressure is “the application of pressure (as with the thumbs or fingertips) to the same discrete points on the body stimulated in acupuncture that is used for its therapeutic effects”. Though the same treatment sites are used, the technique is different. Both stimulate specific points on the body linked by meridians and organs described in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Although acupressure has been around for more than five thousand years, modern scientific research is just now trying to figure out how it all works. “Bi-directional connection[s]” of the internal organs and their corresponding skin areas or “peripheral somatic projection zones”, create bio-dynamic reflexes when stimulated by acupuncture treatments in actual clinical studies (Schoen, 1194. p. 318). A pressure-sensitive point, or Active point, can relate to and indicate a physical abnormality.
With these body mechanics, research has attributed physical benefit even with the “individual variation” of “innervation distribution patterns”. Auricular nerves, for instance, have overlapping “cutaneous innervation zones” and the “main receptor structure seems to be bundles of nerve fibers and their microenvironment” that “when activated by pressure or needling these cells contribute to local inflammatory reactions, perpetuating stimulation of the sensitive nerve fibers [even] after discontinuation of the mechanical stimulation.” (Schoen, 1994. p. 317). Essentially continuing to work even after the treatment. Methods like massage and low-level-light laser therapy are recommended as alternatives to needles. Cautions such as using fewer points and less vigorous stimulation when using ear acupuncture is recommended with debilitated and cardiac patients. Massage allows for accessing these points more safely.
TCM works with these physical structures of the body but also energetic ones, such as the meridians, elemental and yin/yang aspects. The ears are notable here as well. Meridians cross the entire body but “those surrounding the ear are the three yang meridians of the gall bladder (GB), small intestine (SI), and triple heater or triple burner (TH).” (Schwartz, 1996. p. 184). The ear points are a common intersection for many channels and though there are numerous TCM meridians and acupressure points across the body, the ears are noted as “connecting all the [meridian] channels of the body” (Schwartz, 1996. p. 185). TCM also relates the ear with yin energy and the kidney elements of water and blood movement. Furthermore, “the two fire elements of the SI and TH are connected to hearing” (Schwartz, 1996. p. 186). There is even an acupuncture methodology that works strictly on detailed ear points to affect the entire body, used in both humans and animals, called therapeutic ear acupuncture or Auriculotherapy.
The acupuncture points are mapped and named according to the meridians and translated from Chinese to English as possible. Several texts describe at least nineteen notable points found by the ears alone which can be easily accessed during canine massage. These include Gall Bladder points 2, 3,5,7,8,9,10,11,12, and 20; the Triple Heater points 17,18,19,20,21,22; and the Small Intestine points 17 and 19. There are also three significant ear points not named for these meridian locations. These are M-H-10 (or tip of the ear point), An Shen (or Peaceful Spirit) and Kai Zhin Jui. (Matern, 341). These points can be manually located at each ear tip or as indentations almost circling the ear base.
Lining the anterior ear base along the opening in an upright eared dog the most common points documented are the TH-21 or Ears Door or Gate, below that SI-19 or Palace of Hearing or Auditory Palace, and below that GB-2 or Auditory Convergence, Confluence (or Reunion) of Hearing. These are suggested to be massaged together (4). Centered at the posterior base of the ear is GB-20 (Wind Pond or Pool) and following a straight line ventrally across the ear opening to a “well-defined impression” (LuckyDogHealth) is TH-17 (Shielding Wind), directly in between these two points lies the An Shen point.
Benefits can range and owners and caregivers should look for subtle changes. Regular stimulation of certain acupressure points are recorded to assist with ear issues such as hearing imbalances, red, dry, inflamed ears, chronic ear wax buildup, chronic moist ear problems and ear pain. GB-12 and GB-19 points are said to calm the spirit. Other points located near the ear aide in clearing internal or external wind and heat, general support of the ear and head, or resolving obstructions in body channels. Some are seen to benefit the temporomandibular joint or conditions such as gingivitis, nerve paresis, continuous viscous discharge, eye problems, or even moving stagnant Qi. The TB-22 point is noted to aide disturbed hearing and equilibrium, the GB-8 harmonizes the diaphragm and stomach, and the SI-19 stimulates all yang channels. (Matern, 2012. p. 256).
It is also notable that TB-18 (or Tugging Vessel), which calms wind and relieves fear, is located caudal to ear base “in a depression between external acoustic opening and jugular process” close to the external artery and should be massaged with knowledge and caution (Matern, 2012. p. 251). Likewise, SI-17 (or Celestial Countenance) is located in the “depression between corner of jaw and cranial edge of sternocleidomastoid muscle above carotid artery, jugular vein, and cranial cervical ganglion” which are important blood and nerve tissues (Matern, 2012. p. 159). This point offers support of the neck, throat, ears and lowers rebellious Qi.
According to Dr. Schwartz, in our canine companions, “the most common type of ear problems seen in veterinary practice are hearing imbalance, red, dry, inflamed ear with and without waxy discharge and soupy, smelly, moist ears.”(Schwartz, 1996. p. 184) Interestingly, the acupressure points around the ear seem to address these such issues. There are many benefits to be gained with intentional touch and utilizing the knowledge that the ear points are connected to benefitting locally as well as other areas of the body. As a canine massage practitioner, it is not knowing the names and which exact point treats which specific health concerns, but that incorporating this into your canine massage practice can bring support to the entire body with your touch. Some canine clients may be too sensitive for acupuncture, making them ideal candidates for gentle acupressure accessed during canine massage sessions.
Delightfully such things as focusing energy and calming the spirit and mind may be provoked while massaging the ear area, making this part of the body something not to miss or dismiss in any canine massage. With information at our fingertips, more acupressure points all over the body can be added to your skill set during your canine massage sessions.
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Matern, Christina DVM. Acupuncture For Dogs and Cats A Pocket Atlas. New York, New York: George Thieme Verlag, 2012.
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