As someone who's had migraine headaches almost her entire life, I can attest to the fact that migraines will have you running towards the closest treatment possible—anything to make the excruciating pain dissipate. Many medical advancements have led to medicines that can treat and manage this chronic condition, but sometimes they simply don't work. So when standard neurological treatments aren't an option, many people turn to alternative methods of treatment and pain management.
Enter daith piercings. Located in the cartilage of the inner ear, this type of piercing, believe it or not, can actually help manage chronic migraine pain.
How can daith piercings help with migraines?
It might seem unclear how a piercing in the ear could help with pain in our brains, but it turns out our different organs are more connected than we would readily assume. To understand the connection between daith piercings and migraine relief, we have to examine the roots of acupuncture.
What Is Accupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that involves the stimulation of different nerve-rich anatomical sites (or acupuncture points) on the body with very thin needles. The idea is that doing so will help to relieve pain and stimulate other areas of the body that are connected to the acupuncture point.
"The ear is actually a very rich point of acupuncture points," says to Dr. Aditi Neruker, an integrative medicine physician at Harvard Medical School.
Tsao-Lin Moy, a NYC-based acupuncturist and owner of Integrative Healing Arts concurs. She adds that "there are many tiny nerve branch tips located on the ear such as the vagus and occipital nerves as well as the outer branch of the auriculotemporal nerve, also known as cranial nerve V. All are located close to the crux of the helix." [Ed note: The helix is the outer rim of the ear.] Daith piercings are often located on either side of the crux of the helix of the ear, which is a cartilaginous part and near the nerve endings, says Moy. "Acupuncture in the ear uses a mapping of a microcosm of the body on the ears. Pressing or needling points in the ears are believed to be a reflex related to an organ or body part that needs attention."
The insertion of a daith piercing is thought by some to mimic how acupuncture can stimulate acupuncture points in the ear, albeit the fact it is constantly inserted rather than pressed into the ear for just a short period of time.
Do daith piercings actually work?
Dr. Neruker does not recommend daith piercings as a migraine treatment. “There is not a ton of scientific evidence that a daith piercing is actually helpful for migraines. The science does not back it up," she explains. She adds that much of the research conducted on the efficacy of daith piercings for migraine treatment have been through limited case studies that suggest it could be beneficial for some people. "There have not been any big randomized trials or clinical trials to see if it's efficacious for migraines."
Moy believes that daith piercings could potentially offer short term migraine relief, but not in the long term. She explains, "There is no scientific research about daith piercings and migraines and whether it would work long term or for everyone, which makes suggesting [the piercing] iffy."
Although from a clinical point of view, there is not a ton of evidence about the efficacy of daith piercings for migraine relief, there have been anecdotal accounts that it has worked for certain individuals. Brian Keith Thomspon, a piercing expert and owner of Body Electric Tattoo, states that he has personally heard "more positive results than negative ones" regarding how a daith piercing affected his clients' migraine pain.
Should you get a daith piercing?
For those worried about the possible pain associated with getting a daith piercing, Thompson tells us that "the split second of pain you're going to receive from getting the piercing is nothing like having a full-blown migraine." He also points out that it is not permanent, and if for any reason it does not help alleviate migraine pain, individuals can take the piercing out. However, regardless of which path you choose, be sure to speak with a physician to weigh your treatment options, especially considering chronic migraine pain could be symptomatic of other, more serious conditions.