Nearly 20% of people in the U.S. suffer from migraine headaches. These headaches come with crippling pain and other side effects that include nausea, light sensitivity, and fatigue. One of the worst parts about migraines is that there seems to be no consistent treatment options that can completely prevent or rapidly treat the pain. For this reason, many migraine sufferers (sometimes referred to as “migraineurs”) are willing to try alternative treatments that have very little scientific evidence of efficacy. One such treatment is a daith piercing. Daith piercings have been floating in the blogosphere as a migraine treatment option for several years, but proof of its effectiveness is decidedly mixed.
What are daith piercings?
The daith piercing punctures the cartilage on the innermost fold of the ear. This curved place is generally pierced with a hollow needle as a piercing gun is unable to maneuver into such a tight place.
The idea behind daith piercing is simple. The ears are very sensitive areas of the body, often utilized in acupuncture to treat a variety of conditions (including migraine). The daith has a pressure point that some believe will help prevent or relieve migraine headache pain.
Does daith piercing for migraine work?
It is important to be very clear about one particular point: to date, there are zero scientifically-valid studies on the efficacy of daith piercings. In fact, there is not a single study published (or any study in progress) that looks at the effectiveness of daith piercing.
That daith piercing is based on the perceived effectiveness of acupuncture in treating migraine is also misleading. Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture is no more effective at relieving migraine than sham acupuncture. The placebo effect seems to be powerful with this type of complementary medicine. Some migraine sufferers even felt relief based on whether or not they perceived the practitioner to care about their well-being.
If the theory behind daith piercing is based on acupuncture alone and the idea that the piercing passes through a pain-preventing (or treating) pressure point, then it is safe to say that there is no scientific proof that it works.
On the other hand, there is anecdotal evidence that daith piercings are a highly-effective preventative treatment for migraine headaches. From blogs posts to discussion boards, migraine sufferers are enthusiastic and vocal about success with a daith piercing when nothing else worked.
Nicole Bandes, a very vocal migraineur living and working in Arizona, writes on her Facebook page about her daith piercing:
“I’ve seen a reduction in frequency and intensity of my migraines where nothing else seemed to help. My husband noticed it before I did (and that’s saying something). Maybe I just wasn’t willing to admit that it was actually working. Since getting it, I think I’ve had less than five migraines. Only one of those has actually made me fully non-functional for a day. I’ve dramatically reduced my use of drugs to deal with the migraines.”
Another migraine sufferer says that even though she still experiences migraines, their intensity is less, saying:
“My headache has gone from a five or six out of 10 down to a three. It’s still there, I’m not headache free. I’m still on the medication and I haven’t changed anything that the consultants have given me. But since the piercing it has dropped considerably.”
In 2016, The Daily Migraine conducted what they call an “anecdotal study,” asking their readers to submit stories of their daith piercing. Billed as “the largest anecdotal study to date,” this survey of their readership offers 40 anecdotal reports of daith piercings, with mixed results. Some readers report that the daith piercing seemed to help initially but not in the long term. Others found that it reduced the frequency and/or intensity but did not eliminate them altogether.
There are also testimonials at both extremes, with readers reporting both complete pain relief and other saying that their pain may have even increased after the piercing.
The final word on daith piercings
If you are looking for scientific proof of daith piercing for migraine relief, you will not find any. There are simply no studies out there looking at daith piercing’s effectiveness for migraine relief. Even acupuncture is not a cut-and-dried proven treatment (although studies do show some efficacy).
That being said, daith piercing has worked for some. If you suffer from unrelenting migraines and have tried everything from avoiding triggers to pharmaceutical treatments to relieve the pain without success, daith piercing is a relatively harmless treatment to try.
There are a few things to consider before getting pierced, though, including:
- Appearance: If your work or school is conservative, a daith piercing may not be allowed. As there is no medical literature to back it up as a treatment for migraine, you may not be able to use that as a justification.
- Risk of infection: The healing time for a daith piercing can be anywhere from three to six months. During this time, the risk of infection is present.
- Pain: Cartilage piercings are notoriously painful, and the daith piercing seems to be exceptionally so.
- Experience: The goal of a daith piercing is to target a particular bundle of nerves, a pressure point used in acupuncture. Not every piercer will understand what the goal is. Looking for a piercer with experience in daith piercing for migraine is important.
- Location: Some people confuse the daith with the tragus. If the goal is migraine relief, location matters.
If nothing else has worked and you are willing to try anything for migraine relief, daith piercing may be helpful for you.
Add to the data: do you have a daith piercing? Did it work to relieve your migraine pain?