Piercings and other cosmetic trends can be interesting and diverse forms of self-expression. But people with migraine sometimes wonder, could certain piercings potentially serve a more clinical purpose?
It’s been suggested that daith piercing — a stylish piercing of the ear’s innermost cartilage fold using small hoops, captive bead rings, or other accessories — may offer a measure of relief from headache or migraine pain. But, is there any proof that it works? Let’s explore some findings.
If you’re among the 12% of people who deal with chronic migraines, perhaps you’ve considered a variety of alternative or unconventional methods to manage your symptoms.
Studies say that eliminating triggers such as alcohol, gluten, aged cheese or pickled foods can be a positive step. Other reports suggest that certain essential oils might offer analgesic benefits and lessen headache sensitivities (although essential oils are unregulated and you should consult your doctor before using them).
If you’ve explored such alternatives for your head pain, perhaps you’ve wondered if daith piercing can be effective. Does it work? Is it safe? Read on to discover what daith piercing is and what we know about it.
The outer ear is a complex structure composed of several cartilage folds. These folds help capture sound waves and funnel them to the inner ear.
The smallest fold, located directly above your ear canal, is known as the daith. A tricky area to pierce, it can take months to heal. And because the area is so small to work with, people with daith piercings typically don’t change the jewelry often.
In a 2016 survey, 1107 participants with a daith piercing were asked how long they’d had their piercing and how it affected their migraine frequency and severity. Sixty-four percent of respondents indicated they’d felt some level of migraine relief. In another study, a 54-year old patient — who’d experienced years of chronic tension headaches and migraines without aura — reported some improvement in pain level and sensitivity and less frequent attacks after a daith piercing.
But essentially, such reports are not very common, and most data is anecdotal. For those hoping for a miracle result, there is no real scientific evidence that daith ear piercings work to alleviate migraine symptoms.
Clinical trials are needed to further investigate any potential that daith piercings may hold as a treatment for migraine and headache discomfort.
Some research suggests migraine headaches may have a connection to the vagal nerves, critical to intestinal, immune system, and heart health. To some extent, piercing of the daith may affect how these nerves communicate pain by disrupting those signals and providing relief.
The concept of acupuncture and pressure points may play a role in this theory. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that thousands of points along the body conduct Qi, or life energy. Stimulating one of these points is said to free any blocked energy and bring healing and relief to other areas of the body.
Modern science questions whether these two are one and the same. More research is needed to clearly define how pressure points work in congruence with acupuncture points.
Migraine specialist Chris Blatchley, M.D. notes that, with a daith piercing, “the key to success is that it was performed in the correct place so that the vagus nerve was stimulated." However, this level of precision can be difficult to achieve — and even with precision, there is no guarantee of effectiveness.
It’s also important to understand the inherent risks involved in daith piercing.
Although typically no more costly than other piercings, daith piercing can be painful to this sensitive area of the ear. Healing can also take a long time, sometimes up to 9 months. And according to headache specialist Dr. Emad Estemalik, without proper cleaning and aftercare, a daith piercing may become infected, which could “outweigh any unproven benefit.”
And remember that survey of 1107 participants? For 4.8% of them, migraines were reported as worsening after daith piercing, while another 29.4% reported no change at all in their migraine symptoms.
Migraine headaches can be life-altering, and not in a good way. Many who get migraine headaches find it worthwhile to seek alternative therapies that may help. But among those alternatives, evidence is so far lacking that daith piercings are necessarily effective. And because risks can be high, this option for migraine treatment is generally discouraged.
Fortunately, science can offer better and more hopeful solutions for people who experience the pain and inconvenience of migraine. Take this 2-minute quiz to see if an individualized treatment program of DNA-guided Migraine Care is for you.