An experimental evaluation of auricular diagnosis: the somatotopic mapping or musculoskeletal pain at ear acupuncture points

Pain. 1980 Apr;8(2):217-229. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(88)90009-7.


The present study was designed to experimentally evaluate the claims by French and Chinese acupuncturists that a somatotopic mapping of the body is represented upon the external ear. According to this system of diagnosis, areas of the auricle where there is increased electrical conductivity and heightened tenderness to touch correspond to specific areas of the body where there is some pathological condition. The hypothetical map of different bodily regions appears on the external ear as an inverted fetus, with the head represented towards the lower lobule, the hands and feet represented at the uppermost portion of the auricle, and the body in between. Forty patients were medically examined to determine areas of their body where there was musculoskeletal pain. Each patient was then draped with a sheet to conceal any visible physical problems. The physician conducting the auricular diagnosis had no prior knowledge of the patient's medical condition, but simply examined the patient's ear for areas of elevated skin conductivity or tenderness. The concordance between the established medical diagnosis and the auricular diagnoses was 75.2%. Both quantified readings of electrical current flow and subjective ratings of dermal tenderness were statistically significant in arriving at accurate diagnoses. These results thus support the hypothesis that there is a somatotopoic organization of the body represented upon the human auricle.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Ear, External / anatomy & histology*
  • Ear, External / physiology
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Research Design