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Daith Piercing for Migraines: Hope or Hype?

Written by Holly Hazen


I’ll be upfront with you: I’m pretty skeptical about daith piercing for migraines and the supposed benefits. I’ve been reading about this ‘treatment’ - if you can call it that - for a long time now. And I’ve yet to be convinced of the claims.


Aside from a teeny weeny bit of anecdotal evidence, there are no solid numbers or large-scale studies (or a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial) that support the claim that daith piercing cures migraines.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a kind of acupuncture. It isn’t. Out of the 1,120 points in the ears, daith piercing doesn’t coincide with a single point that’s commonly used to treat migraines with acupuncture. (See large image.)


Both Sides Of The Story

Over the years, I’ve read some things that support this treatment, and some that discredit it completely.

Surprisingly, daith piercing for migraines became a ‘thing’ when a mention from one person on social media went viral. For a long time after that, every article that was written about daith piercing was based on that one original social media source. Hardly a very comprehensive piece of research, and it didn’t inspire me with confidence in the validity of the claims.

But I recently read an excellent article in the blog over at Migraine Pal. A small, informal study of 1,107 participants did produce results that suggest that daith piercing for migraines may have the potential to produce beneficial effects in the early months after the initial piercing.

The results, after 2 1/2 years is that half of the 1,170 participants experienced some kind of improvement. More specifically for migraine severity, of that:

  • 5% saw an increase (so they got worse)
  • 29% stayed the same (no change)
  • 52% were somewhat or greatly reduced
  • 14% have had no further attacks

Impressive results, imo!

Migraine frequency was also recorded, with:

  • 5% seeing an increase in attacks
  • 31% reducing attacks by half, or more than half
  • 18% seeing a full remission

It might be easier to look at it like this. Here are the survey results from those people at more than 1 year after the piercing:

Results

Increased

No Change

Reduced

No Further Attacks

Severity

9%

24%

49%

18%

Frequency   

7%

28%

44%

20%


A stand out point is that 18-20% eliminated their attacks and 44-49% reduced them. 

This study does show that daith piercing for migraines may break the cycle initially. And it appears to have worked for a good proportion of the participants, and a recent study proved that it does appear to have long-term, sustainable benefits. I'd still err on the side of caution and implement a more robust, clinically proven treatment program for your long-term migraine management plan.

The long term statistics after 2 years decline. So the more recent the piercing, the better the results. This is important. 

Before we look at that other study, let's look a these pros and cons first.


The Pros And Cons

Based on everything I’ve read (most of which was generated from that one single social media source!), here are the pros and cons of daith piercing for migraines - from my point of view:


Daith Piercing for Migraines

Pros

  • It might help (BIG PRO!)
  • It's inexpensive
  • It might help
  • It might help...

Cons

  • It doesn’t target the points on the ear which are specifically used in acupuncture for the treatment of migraines
  • Instead, daith points relate to the mouth and the anus, neither of which have anything to do with migraines
  • There’s a risk of infection with unsterilized equipment
  • Daith piercing requires diligent aftercare and can take as long as 6 months to heal (by which time any benefits may have worn off)
  • You might not get it in exactly the right spot
  • It might not work…
  • …or it might make your migraines worse

Some Say Yes... Some Say NO

According to Live Oak Acupuncture Center

Clinical experience suggests that body piercings offer temporary (1-2 weeks) therapeutic benefit at best. They definitely do not represent a long term cure for any condition, including migraines.” 

This is directly from a professional acupuncturist. If you read the comments, you will see a great debate.

Another very small study (40 people) cited in this article by Battlefield Acupuncture, showed a significant reduction in headache days. It also highlights that there is a more specific field of study required outside of 'mainstream' acupuncture called auriculotherapy, and that this kind of precise piercing expertise is required.

The other larger study was run by the London Migraine Clinic under Dr. Chris Blatchley. Their findings were that the effects of daith piercing appeared to be quite resilient in that 60% after one year had no drop-off effect. They did find that it did not work in approximately 15% of migraine patients. Here are their details - Migraine Piercing London. [1]

My Conclusion?

I’m always up for learning about new ways to treat or manage migraines. And I would LOVE it if there really was a cure, for all of the millions of us who suffer these attacks.

But, I’m still yet to be convinced that daith piercing is a viable treatment option for migraines. It’s taken me awhile to write this article because I’ve been waiting to see if any further studies are undertaken, and what their results say. And I’m still waiting!

So, I’d recommend sticking to treatment options that have some good solid evidence behind them - whether they’re medical or alternative treatments.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t try it if you want to. If it appeals to you, or you like how the piercings look, then I recommend you do some thorough research of your own. If you want to give it a try, there’s nothing stopping you. Arm yourself with as many facts as you can find first, though, and only go to a reputable piercing practitioner. And, as always, make sure you consult your healthcare professional before trying something new.

An Alternative To Daith Piercing For Migraines 

If you’re like me and not convinced about daith piercing, here’s something I would recommend instead.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses auricular therapy. This entails stimulating key points in the outer ear - all of which correspond to body parts and functions - with seeds or needles, just like acupuncture. This treats an array of ailments, migraines being one of them.

Since daith piercing for migraines leaves you with a permanent piercing that may or may not be effective, auricular therapy can be a good alternative, or an initial first step. 

You’ll need to find a qualified, experienced acupuncturist if you want to try this. And if it’s effective for you, great! You can carry on with the same therapy - or if it inspires you to try daith piercing for your migraines then that’s your choice too.

Have You Tried Daith Piercing For Migraines?

If so, I’d love to hear how the experience was for you. Did you get good results? Or did it make your migraines worse?

I’ll be keeping an eye out for any new studies that produce results to support the claims for or against daith piercing for migraines. But in the meantime, I’ve concluded that it’s definitely not one for me!

So, stay in touch, and download 5 things you can use right now by joining the mailing list...



You might like to read this study...

Daith Piercing in a Case of Chronic Migraine: A Possible Vagal Modulation.
Cascio Rizzo A, Paolucci M, Altavilla R, Brunelli N, Assenza F, Altamura C, Vernieri F. Front Neurol. 2017 Nov 27;8:624. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00624. 


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References:
1. Migraine Pal (2016) Daith Piercing Evidence for Migraine. Available [online] at: https://migrainepal.com/daith-piercing-evidence-for-migraine/
2. John Howard, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. and Eric Serejski, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac, Ch (2019) The Daith piercing as a possible layman’s treatment option for those who suffer from headaches and migraine headaches. Available [online] at: https://www.battlefieldacupuncture.net/daithpiercing/
3. Horner-Warren, K. (2015) No, Getting Your Ear Pierced Won't Cure Your Migraines. Available [online] at: https://www.liveoakacupuncture.com/can-getting-your-ear-pierced-really-cure-migraine-headaches/
4. Migraine Piercing London (2019) Available [online] at: https://daith.co.uk/


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