Thursday, October 27, 2016

Daith piercing for migraine

Living with migraines can be a complete nightmare.

The severe headache usually appears as a throbbing pain at the front or side of the head and often causes feelings of nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.

But a growing number of migraine sufferers believe they may have found an unusual way to ease symptoms: daith piercings. 

A daith piercing is a piercing in the innermost cartilage fold of the ear. Advocates say it works in the same way as acupuncture, targeting pressure points on the body’s surface to ease discomfort. According to the NHS, acupuncture works by stimulating nerves under the skin and in muscle tissue.

This results in the body producing pain-relieving substances, such as endorphins. It is likely these substances are responsible for any beneficial effects seen with acupuncture.

Many people on social media have come forward to share their positive experiences of getting a daith piercing, including Nicole Bandes.

Writing on Facebook the managing director from Arizona said: “I’ve now had this (piercing) for over six months and can honestly admit that is has worked for me.

“I’ve seen a reduction in frequency and intensity of my migraines where nothing else seemed to help. My husband noticed it before I did (and that’s saying something). Maybe I just wasn’t willing to admit that it was actually working.

“Since getting it, I think I’ve had less than five migraines. Only one of those has actually made me fully non functional for a day. I’ve dramatically reduced my use of drugs to deal with the migraines.”…

So, does the piercing really work?

“There isn’t a lot of hard science behind the correlation between daith piercings and headache relief. Some people have found relief with this method, but it certainly won’t work for everybody,” Dr Thomas Cohn, who specialises in pain relief, writes in a blog.

He goes on to explain that although daith piercings appear to be a recent trend, the “location of the piercing has actually been targeted by acupuncturists to help cure headaches” in the past…

“We are always pleased when people gain some measure of relief from their migraine. Migraine is a term covering a range of similar conditions in which headache can be a symptom,” he tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

“Unfortunately what works for one person can make the condition worse in others, so we have to treat this with a degree of caution, especially in these very early days after the procedure has been done.

“As with any technique we would welcome the results of a clinical trial so it can be considered properly, to allow for a full understanding of the long term implications and effects of the piercing on patients.

“We would highly recommend that all migraine patients continue with the treatment that has been prescribed by their medical professional.”

If the idea of a piercing doesn’t appeal, Evans says you do not need to suffer migraines in silence.

He says: “Migraine Action’s helpline - open weekdays 10am-4pm (08456 011 033) - can help guide all affected through acute and preventative medication options.”

He also suggests other treatments, including acupuncture and changing sleeping patterns and diet, may have an impact.

Courtesy of a colleague


  1. My 8 year old daughter has suffered from pediatric migraines since she was three. I've seen some adult friends recently trying this and came across your blog searching for pediatric use. Your post here doesn't really indicate if it has been beneficial for children. What is your experience?

  2. I have no direct experience with daith piercing. "Daith" as a search item in PubMed yields no returns. My online investigation, stimulated by your query, led only to:

    I’m a professional piercer and over the last year I’ve done between 120 and 150 daith piercings. From my experience through the feedback from my customers, the daith piercing is more effective than most drugs on the market without the long list of side effects. I’ve only had a handful of customers that didn’t find relief from this piercing. What I try to tell people is if you don’t find relief from one side, get the other side done. I’ve actually had customers tell me the first piercing relieved the migraines on the side that was pierced, so they had the other side done and it relieved them completely. I don’t know if these will be a permanent fix for migraines or if the symptoms will eventually return, but I’ve yet to hear anyone tell me that it’s stopped being effective after having it for a while. My recommendation for your friend is consider getting the other side done. It might be enough to end her migraines altogether. I just wish my state legislators would change the laws to allow me to do this piercing on children who suffer from migraines. It kills me to have to tell a parent that the law doesn’t allow me to help their child. I’ve even gotten referrals from doctors sending patients to get this piercing. Bottom line is that it works for many people and it’s getting people off of the drugs that leave them feeling like zombies. It’s worth a try for anyone suffering from the debilitating effects of migraines. (comment)

  3. This post has received an incredible amount of views in the last few months, and many people have spoken out about their experience with a Daith piercing. However, I am a little disappointed to how some people are quick to chastise this option, saying it isn’t rooted in any concrete evidence. Many of those people likely saw the headline or skimmed the article and assumed I was simply trying get people to shell out more money for an unproven option that, in their opinion, can at best provide some pseudo-placebo effect. Having read their comments and seen stories refuting Daith piercings, I just wanted to clarify some misconceptions.

    First, anyone who read the above post can clearly see that we’re not saying this is a well-studied, documented and thoroughly researched alternative. Hopefully we can find more hard evidence, and scientists are learning more every day about the underlying reasons why regionalized stimulation may help with headaches. I wrote a recent post that sheds more light on the role the vagus nerve plays in the equation and how the medical community is continuing to search for concrete answers.

    Secondly, unless you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of someone who suffers from chronic pain or headaches, please don’t be quick to chastise potential solutions. Like many of this site’s readers, I deal with chronic pain (in my back), and at times I find myself at my wit’s end trying to manage and control pain. People who are considering a Daith piercing for their headache pain aren’t considering it as their first option, odds are they’ve seen specialists, tried therapies and medications, avoided certain trigger activities, altered their diets and their sleep schedules or undertaken a myriad of other treatments that haven’t solved their problems. Pain is a very personal issue, and having someone belittle a potential treatment technique, which appears to have worked for some commenters, adds nothing positive to the goal of solving the pain problem. Hope and belief that pain can be resolved is a key aspect of findings pain relief, and while people are certainly entitled to be wary of options lacking concrete medical evidence, I only ask that you consider the person in pain’s perspective before you belittle or demean their curiosity to this relatively new treatment avenue. I’m not trying to quell dissent and I thoroughly enjoy reasoned arguments on both sides of the spectrum, and I completely understand why it’s important to be hesitant of unfounded medical treatments, but if we ignored all potential solutions in their early stages simply because they had yet to be fully researched, the medical world would never evolve.

    Thanks for reading,

    Dr. Cohn

  4. Cascio Rizzo A, Paolucci M, Altavilla R, Brunelli N, Assenza F, Altamura C, Vernieri F. Daith Piercing in a Case of Chronic Migraine: A Possible Vagal Modulation. Front Neurol. 2017 Nov 27;8:624.

    Daith piercing is an ear piercing located at the crus of the helix, bilaterally. It is getting great consent on social media as alternative treatment in chronic migraine. No data about its efficacy and action are available in scientific literature so far. We present the case of a 54-year-old male patient suffering from refractory chronic migraine with medication-overuse, who substantially improved after bilateral ear daith piercing. His migraine was refractory to symptomatic as well as prophylactic therapies. He used to treat headaches with up to five symptomatic drugs per attack and had attempted several pharmacological preventive therapies, including Onabotulinumtoxin A. He also underwent detoxification treatments with intravenous steroids and diazepam, without durable benefit. At the time of daith piercing, the headache-related disability measures showed a HIT-6 score of 64, a MIDAS-score of 70, and a 11-point Box scale of 5. On his own free will, he decided to get a "daith piercing." After that, he experienced a reduction of migraine attacks, which became very rare, and infrequent, less disabling episodes of tension-type headache (HIT-6 score of 56; MIDAS score of 27, 11-point Box scale of 3). Painkiller assumption has much decreased: he takes only one tablet of indomethacin 50 mg to treat tensive headaches, about four times per month. Beyond a placebo effect, we can speculate a vagal modulation as the action mechanism of daith piercing: a nociceptive sensory stimulus applied to trigeminal and vagal areas of the ear can activate ear vagal afferents, which can modulate pain pathways by means of projections to the caudal trigeminal nucleus, to the locus coeruleus and to the nucleus raphe magnus. Currently, daith piercing cannot be recommended as migraine treatment because of the lack of scientific evidence, the unquantified rate of failure and the associated risks with insertion. However, given the increasing but anecdotal evidence, we think that the mechanism needs testing by means of a controlled clinical trial in a population of chronic migraineurs.