Is the Daith Piercing Really Effective for Migraines?

daith piercing

daith piercingIn the last decade or so, body modifications like piercings and tattoos have lost some of their social stigma and are now more widely accepted. However, there’s new evidence to suggest that piercings aren’t just about self-expression anymore. Some, including the daith piercing, may actually have hidden health benefits.

Daith Piercing for Migraines

One of the most common piercings for health reasons is the daith piercing. This is a piercing of the innermost cartilage fold of the ear, or the small flap of cartilage that partially covers the opening of the ear canal. It’s said to prevent migraines, and many people – including children – are visiting piercing parlors for their turn in the chair. There are no real clinical studies, but polls show that these piercings can be beneficial for many people.

Before delving into how a daith piercing is said to help with migraines, it’s important to note a few very important facts.

  • There’s no cure for migraines. For those who suffer with chronic migraines, this is something they’ve learned to live with. Trips to the doctor, therapies, medications, and even piercings serve to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines – not cure them.
  • Doctors aren’t certain what causes migraines. There are plenty of theories, and in some cases, migraines seem to be caused by certain triggers like foods, sounds, or aromas. However, researchers just don’t know what’s really happening in your body when you have a migraine, and that’s why treating migraines appropriately is often a hit-or-miss, trial-and-error undertaking.
  • There’s no one treatment that works for everyone. Some people will respond best to certain prescription medications intended to prevent migraines, including Ativan. Others may find that they respond best when they take a medication like Imitrex at the very onset of a migraine. For still others, these medications do very little, and they benefit more from things like cognitive behavioral therapy and changes in their diets. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all.

Why the Daith Piercing?

Those who seem to back the idea of the daith piercing as a preventative measure for migraines usually point to the relief provided by acupuncture. Several acupuncturists, including Dr. Will Foster, claim that the piercing passes through a pressure point in the ear that corresponds to the digestive system. With that knowledge in mind, it’s believed that those who have migraines due to digestive troubles could physically benefit from the procedure.

Of course, there are some cases in which receiving a piercing to combat migraines could provide nothing more than a placebo effect. One headache specialist, Dr. Emad Emestalmak, disagrees with the acupuncture benefit. He claims that patients may be experiencing a placebo effect, instead. The placebo effect occurs when someone truly believes a treatment is beneficial, which creates an improvement in symptoms. It’s very common in clinical trials of newly developed medications, too.

Daith Piercing Statistics

A researcher from MigrainePal, an online source of information for migraine sufferers, decided to take a poll to gauge the efficacy of the daith piercing for the prevention of migraines. Out of a total of 380 respondents, nearly half (47%) claimed that they had noticeable decreases in the frequency of their migraines. For some, the decrease in frequency was enough to change their lives. Roughly 48% of respondents said their migraine frequency stayed the same. About 54% of respondents claimed that the piercing reduced the severity of their migraines; 46% claimed there was no reduction in severity. Other statistics are equally impressive.

  • 4% of respondents said their migraine frequency was reduced by more than half.
  • 9% of people experienced full remission.
  • 1% of people experienced a reduction of 10% to 50%.

Regardless, the largest group of respondents claimed the daith piercing had no effect on their migraines at all, and 4.8% claimed their migraines were more frequent or severe after the piercing than before. Bear in mind that this research is quite limited, and as of 2017, it remains the largest poll of its kind.

With this information in mind, it’s safe to say that a daith piercing provides about a 50% chance of offering relief in some way, whether that relief comes in the form of reductions in frequency or severity. However, there’s also a very slim chance (about 5%) that a daith piercing may exacerbate migraines. It’s a personal choice and one people should make on a case-by-case basis after carefully researching the risks and benefits.

Other Piercings with Reported Health Benefits

While the daith piercing is the most popular and widely-circulated example of how piercings can affect one’s health in a positive way, it’s certainly not the first example. In fact, piercings for health benefits date back hundreds or even thousands of years, and many got their start in Eastern cultures, such as in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

  • Nose piercing – Nose piercing is an important part of Indian culture, and while it has more of a spiritual meaning in this case, it’s been done for centuries for health reasons. In Ayurvedic medicine, piercing a specific area of the nostril is common for the relief of menstrual pain. Nerves in the left nostril are believed to be linked to female reproduction, and that’s why so many Indian women and girls wear a piercing in the left nostril.
  • Ear piercing – Aside from the daith piercing, there are 14 other ear piercings. Some of them are purely cosmetic, but others may provide some relief from certain health conditions. For example, in some cultures, people pierce young babies’ or children’s earlobes to stimulate nerves thought to trigger brain development. Piercing about an inch above the lobe is thought to help with back pain, and a study out of the Mayo Clinic provides some evidence to back that claim.
  • Lip piercing – Though lip piercing started millennia ago as a way for ancient cultures to please spirits, these days, it’s thought to have other benefits. Some polls show that people who have piercings in their lips enjoy more sexual satisfaction, and though the evidence may be purely anecdotal, it’s still quite interesting.

With all this information in mind, and with studies, polls, and even clinical trials behind it, the decision to pierce part of your body is not one that should be made lightly. Remember that infection is always a risk, too. In the case of the daith piercing, there’s a good chance you may experience relief if the polls are to be believed, but there’s a slight risk you may make your condition worse.

You might also like to read our write on how to stop headaches with a few lifestyle changes.