Daith Piercing for Migraine

This alternative treatment has not been scientifically proven

Among alternative treatments purported to be effective for managing chronic migraine headaches is a type of ear piercing called daith piercing. 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 or 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.

What Is a Daith Piercing?

A daith piercing is located on the tiny fold of cartilage in the outer ear that's just above the opening of ear canal. It's thought 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 who had myriad preventive treatments, including Topimax (topiramil), Elavil (amitriptyline), and Inderal XL (propranolol).

The man 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 cervical ganglion (which basically means radiation was used to destroy nerves in his neck that may have contributed to his pain) and tried Botox treatment, but he continued to experience headaches. At this point, he decided to have 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 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 was primarily due to the placebo effect. They did state, however, that it's possible the daith piercing stimulated fibers of the man's vagus nerve, which then altered pain pathways to the brain.

The potentially beneficial mechanism of action of daith piercing needs extensive testing in controlled studies of people who have chronic migraines before its efficacy 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 typically takes longer 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 at this point. If you're grappling with migraine headaches, talk to your doctor about trying Aimovig (erenumab), one of the newer medications for migraine that block calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), or consider other alternative treatments, such as acupuncture or meditation.

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