Daith Piercing for Migraine

This alternative treatment has not been scientifically proven

Daith piercing is an alternative treatment purported to be effective for managing chronic migraine headaches. Although anecdotes about the effectiveness of daith piercing abound on social media and elsewhere, the practice hasn't been studied by scientists for either prevention of migraines, relief from pain, or other symptoms.

This is important to know if you've heard about daith piercing and are thinking of trying it in order to deal with chronic or episodic migraine headaches. Despite the anecdotal "evidence" that's built up around this, with no scientific evidence to support it as an effective migraine therapy, experts do not recommend it.

daith piercing for migraine treatment

Verywell / Laura Porter

What Is a Daith Piercing?

A daith piercing is a piercing located on the tiny fold of cartilage in the outer ear that's just above the opening of ear canal. It's thought that this spot may be the site of an acupuncture pressure point that affects the digestive system and that wearing an earring there provides constant compression that can help to relieve pain.

Limited Research

The practice has not been studied in clinical trials and there has been only one published anecdotal report about daith piercing. It appeared in the November 2017 issue of the journal Frontiers in Neurology and chronicles the case of a 54-year-old man with a history of chronic migraines without aura.

The patient had tried a myriad of preventive treatments to no avail, including Topamax (topiramate), Elavil (amitriptyline), and Inderal XL (propranolol). He had also used various triptans and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief, eventually developing medication overuse (rebound) headaches.

Finally, he underwent a procedure called radiofrequency ablation of the cervical ganglion (which basically means radiation was used to destroy nerves in his neck that may have contributed to his pain), as well as Botox treatment, but he continued to experience headaches. At this point, he decided to get daith piercings on both ears.

Within a few months, he reported having slightly fewer migraines, fewer rebound headaches, and was able to take fewer painkillers to get relief. At the time his case study was published, it had been a year and a half since he had gotten his piercings and he was still enjoying these results.

Intriguing as this patient's experience was, the authors of the case study wrote that they suspected the positive effects he had with daith piercing were primarily due to the placebo effect. They did state, however, that it's possible the daith piercings stimulated fibers of the patient's vagus nerve, which then altered pain pathways to the brain.

The potential benefits and mechanism of action of daith piercing need much more testing in controlled studies of people who have chronic migraines before they can be proven.

Downsides of Daith Piercing

Without solid evidence that daith piercing is an effective treatment for migraine headaches, experts cannot recommend it. What's more, the practice has a number of negative aspects, including but not limited to:

  • Pain at the time of the piercing: It's typically more difficult to pierce through cartilage than the less-resistant flesh of the ear lobe.
  • Recovery: It takes longer for cartilage to fully heal.
  • High risk of infection: There's less blood flow to cartilage, which makes it harder for white blood cells to arrive at the site of an infection to ward it off.
  • Allergic reaction: Certain metals can cause an allergic reaction in people predisposed to them.

A Word From Verywell

Migraines are a debilitating neurological condition and can be challenging to treat, particularly since many of the medications used for them are difficult for some people to tolerate. As attractive as the idea of preventing or relieving migraines with the placement of a tiny earring might be, it's not realistic to put your faith in it at this point.

If you're grappling with migraine headaches, talk to your healthcare provider about trying one of the newer medications for migraine that block calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), or consider other alternative treatments, such as acupuncture or meditation.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Migraine Foundation. Daith piercings & migraines.

  2. Cascio Rizzo A, Paolucci M, Altavilla R, at el. Daith piercing in a case of chronic migraine: A possible vagal modulation. Front Neurol. 2017;8:624. doi:10.3389/fneur.2017.00624

By Colleen Doherty, MD
 Colleen Doherty, MD, is a board-certified internist living with multiple sclerosis.