Could a daith piercing solve your migraine problem?

Lately there has been an upsurge in online content about daith piercing as a treatment for migraine. It all started with an article in a student newspaper at State University of New York in 2011. The article was titled A “Piercing” New Alternative for Migraine Relief.” That article was then picked up by several news media outlets and been republished this year. Interviews with patients who claim success have been published in The Huffington Post and UK Daily Mail, too. Those articles have spread across social media, creating a lot of hype. No doubt you have received more than one copy on your news feed.

No major news coverage

Just because a topic is getting a lot of attention on social media, doesn’t make it reputable news. I haven’t seen any links to The New York Times, Washington Post, or any other leading newspaper. It hasn’t been on the evening news. It’s so new and unproven that it hasn’t even made it onto a daytime medical TV show! You would think that if there really was something to this procedure, some big shot journalist would have run with it by now.

Acupuncture claims

The claims that daith piercing works are based on the assumption that the piercing is in the same location used by acupuncturists to treat headache pain. Even if we assume that migraine involves a headache (which isn’t always the case), I find it doubtful that some tattoo artist or piercing technician can accurately pinpoint an acupressure point.

That’s where the story starts to break down. Not one article has interviewed an acupuncturist. The lack of comment from these practitioners is either glaringly bad journalism or an unwillingness on the part of acupuncturists to be associated with this unproven fad. So I started digging through old school books and checked out some reputable websites for a listing of commonly used acupuncture points. I can find no evidence of a documented or widely used acupuncture point in that anatomical location. There are points above and below the cartilage ridge that are used for digestive issues. There is also a point on the ridge itself, called Point Zero or Wonderful Point. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that acupuncture at this point stimulates a return to homeostasis. To impact this point, the piercing would have to go through the ridge in a horizontal line perpendicular to the body. Daith piercings simply do not impact a single acupuncture point that would have any impact on the neurological condition of migraine.

Is it acupuncture? Does acupuncture help migraine?

There have been a lot of anecdotes about the success of acupuncture in treating migraine. It’s been studied in clinical trials numerous times and shown to be slightly better than a sham procedure (patients think they are getting acupuncture, but they are not). The difference is so slim that it is not recommended as a first line treatment. However, some patients who are uncomfortable with medical treatments or unresponsive to these treatments may consider trying acupuncture. Many headache specialists view acupuncture as a “can’t hurt, might help” therapy. There is no clear evidence that it works. There is also no clear evidence that it doesn’t.

Placebo effect?

Maybe it’s a case of placebo effect? It’s certainly possible. Many of us are desperate enough to try almost anything for relief. Belief in the effectiveness of a treatment goes a long way. The only route to determine if diath piercings are successful is a clinical trial. There are no records of such trials. The lack of objective evidence doesn’t necessarily mean a treatment is ineffective. It just means there’s really no hard proof. All we have to rely on are patient stories.

Group think

Because people thrive in social groups, there is a tendency to adopt the thoughts, beliefs, and opinions that match the majority of people around you. It’s an instinctive survival mechanism that keeps us bonded together. It can also be harmful when the group adopts a belief that has no supporting evidence or has the potential for harm. When a group of desperately sick people really want a treatment to work, the placebo effect can be incredibly high. The trick with placebo effects is that they generally wear off over time. Some of the social media comments appear to demonstrate that this is true for daith piercings.

Perhaps you are thinking about trying it.  After all, it’s “just a piercing” so what could it hurt?

But that’s precisely the problem. It is just a piercing. If you enjoy body piercings, then maybe you’ll be adventurous enough to try a daith piercing on the off chance that it might help you. But what if you’re not a fan of body piercing? Let’s say you’re like me and have a modest 2 piercings per ear lobe and only wear earrings on special occasions. Would you make a special effort to get a piercing that you normally would avoid in the hopes that it helps reduce the number of migraine attacks?

Is there an upside?

  • At $30-$50, it’s a relatively inexpensive procedure
  • There are few long-term side effects.
  • It’s a new piercing! (if you like that sort of thing)

Points to remember:

  • There is no research to support its use for migraine.
  • It is NOT the same as acupuncture.
  • There is potential for pain and infection at the piercing site.
  • According to some patient reports, it may make the migraine attacks worse.
  • The procedure is performed by non-medical service providers with no formal training in acupuncture or headache medicine

I want to try it anyway. What do I need to know?

  • Make sure you are getting the right piercing. Many people confuse the daith piercing the tragus piercing.
  • Understand that this is a bony cartilage piercing that carries a higher risk of pain and infection if not treated properly.
  • Understand that you are trying an unproven therapy, so outcomes may vary greatly. (Some would argue that this is true even of “proven” therapies.)
  • Be prepared to pay out-of-pocket for the procedure and assume all risks.

Good luck! I really hope it works for you. I think I’ll pass on this one.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. LaCapria, Kim. "'Daith Piercing' a New Alternative for Migraine Relief?" Snopes. Snopes.com, 5 Nov. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. http://www.snopes.com/daith-piercing-migraines/.
  2. Moss, Rachel. "Could This Piercing Be The Secret To Ending Your Migraines?" The Huffington Post UK. AOL (UK) Limited, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/11/daith-piercing-migraine-relief_n_8531022.html.
  3. Perry, Lizzie. "Woman Claims Her EAR PIERCING Has Cured the Excruciating Migraines That Left Her Housebound and Vomiting." Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3214013/Woman-claims-EAR-PIERCING-cured-excruciating-migraines-left-housebound-vomiting.html.
  4. Snowden, Samantha. "A "Piercing" New Alternative for Migraine Relief." A "Piercing" New Alternative for Migraine Relief. The Purchase Journal[ism], 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. https://drupalsites.purchase.edu/journalism/index.php?q=node/49.
  5. "The Meridian Connection | TCM World." TCM World. Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. http://www.tcmworld.org/what-is-tcm/meridian-connection/.

Comments

View Comments (27)
  • Leslie
    2 years ago

    I wonder if some kind of fake ear cuff would be an interesting way to test this idea – something that doesn’t actually pierce the skin, but puts pressure on the right spot. Perhaps get an acupuncturist to place it…?

  • 1md5icf
    3 years ago

    I had my daith piercing done about a week ago. When I had it done I was working on a nasty migraine so I decided to have it done on the side that the migraine was on, my migraines tend to switch sides, I felt an instant relief as soon as the initial pain of the needle going through my ear passed through. It was euphoric. I was so happy. I thought this was the last migraine I would ever have (at least on my left side). NOT SO 🙁 I had four days of no migraines and then I ended up getting two days of migraines on my right side (where I didn’t have the piercing) and then two days of migraines on the left side, where I had the piercing done. I am so disappointed. I was so hoping that it was going to do the trick. My question is, since it is a pressure point, do I need to wait until I completely heal, so that I can actually press and pull on the earing when I feel a migraine coming on to relieve the pressure??? I’m still really hoping for a miracle.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It isn’t actually a pressure point. That’s the sad thing about this whole piercing hype. The pressure point accupuncturists use isn’t anywhere near the location of the piercing. If it were, piercing would destroy the pressure point and make things worse. I agree with many of the leading headache experts: daith piercing, if it works, is placebo effect.

  • Tamara Johnson
    3 years ago

    use to have migraines multiple times a week. Well, on Oct. 6, 2015 I got the daith piercing. Two days later my brother did the same thing.

    Mine is completely healed with no tenderness, probably for about a month and a half now.

    I haven’t had another migraine since. My brother has had only a few. He also had a few that were spotted by wiggling the earring and it stopped.

    It’s a miracle.

    I went into this a little sceptical, but not any more.

    A little history… I had menstrual migraines, ones triggered by stress, exertion, heat, certain smells & pitches of sounds, sometimes from no apparent trigger.

    Having them since I was 16 y/o (close to 40 years) I had my food triggers already figured out.

    It really has been a wonderful miracle for me and my brother.

    My niece also use to get migraines and her’s stopped several years ago. Once we started talking about the daith piercing, she figured out hers stopped back when she got her daith pierced just for a piercing!

  • Ami
    2 years ago

    Oh WOW! You sound like a posting about my migraines, totally. They talk about going to the right person, one who actually knows where that spot REALLY IS. Where did you get your’s done? I mean I have know idea if you live anywhere near here but what the heck. Or maybe one should look up on some registry of Daith piercer? I don’t know but I have tried everything but botox, the migraine glasses and this and this I just now heard of. I kept reading Aura migraine stories but your triggers are JUST like mine. So I want to do this. Any help would be great, PLEASE! Thanks so much, Ami

  • daswunderkind
    3 years ago

    I am just over 3 months out from my daith piercing. It took me over a year to decide to go through with it. I’m a former educator in Tucson and have worked in the medical field as well. I have had multiple brain and spinal cord surgeries, in addition to a serious bout of post-op meningitis. It’s left me with horrific daily headaches that make my former migraines look like birthday parties. I must admit that since the daith piercing, I have only had one HA bad enough to land me in bed in the dark for a day, unable to keep food down. That’s a remarkable improvement after 10 years of doing that a couple times a week, often more. I’ve been able to completely stop one of my prescription painkillers, which I’d been on for many years. (For disclosure, yes I do still take another different kind of rx painkiller due to a connective tissue disorder that causes my joints to dislocate daily.)

    As for the piercing itself, if you’re curious, it was indeed more painful than regular ear piercings but nothing to complain about. I went to a shop that specialized in body piercings and I trusted them to do the job. I spoke with the piercer to go over everything again before I went. Btw, never get a piercing done somewhere like a mall! This is a common reason for the infection and/or failure of any piercing. High quality jewelry must also be used in a daith. Contrary to what most mall shops advise, the earring should not be turned. Do not use peroxide on it; use what the piercer recommends, and always, always, always wash your hands–but don’t mess with the earring, even if you want to.

    What made me decide to finally go for it? As the article says, I had nothing to lose. I’m already spending an absurd amount on doctor visits, prescription medications, AND over-the-counter medications, homeopathic treatments, you name it, desperately hoping to find something to relieve my head pain even 10% of the time…and failing miserably. So what is the harm in spending $40 (she normally charged $60 but I went on a Christmas sale day Dec 26)? I’ve already saved more than that by being able to stop one prescription painkiller.

    There are other benefits as well. My pain specialist keeps saying she sees a difference in me, that I’m so much “clearer, more engaged.” Interesting how my head not constantly exploding will bring me back to life, right?

    So yes, it hurt to get. It’s still tender to sleep on, three months out.

    And for me, it’s completely worth it and I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get it!

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    daswunderkind –
    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with the daith piercing. I am thrilled to hear that you experienced (and still are) positive results!!! Many as you know have not been as fortunate, so I am so happy to read that this seems to have worked for you! I also greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your experience as many of our community members rely on the feedback, comments and suggestions from others regarding treatments to see if it is something they should consider, so your engagement is extremely helpful! Thank you for being part of our community. -Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • Chance K
    3 years ago

    When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.
    -Stevie Wonder

    Migraines cause horrible pain and we sometimes feel like we are ready to try anything. Unfortunately that leaves us vulnerable to exploitation. Many of the members of my migraine support group have commented on the cottage industry that seems to exist to sell products to desperate migraineurs. This is a quick buck for body piercing professionals. It’s a high-volume business, and there are up to 70 million people with migraine in the US alone. That’s a lot of potential customers.

    Sadly, with no supporting scientific evidence, clinical evidence, statistical trials, or even an explanatory model, what is at work here is what is forever at work with these kinds of “old wives tales”: short-term placebo effect.

  • Flippinsushi
    2 years ago

    trials are great but they’re a poor vehicle for finding stuff that works. Botox was discovered by a bunch of rich ladies who noticed their migraines suddenly getting better. The trials follow the breakthrough, not the other way around. We don’t know how migraines work or how most of our medications work with relation to migraine. And even if it is just placebo, it’s incredibly low risk, plus I know a ton of days where I’d have prayed for a placebo effect to make me feel better.
    Also, I almost spit take when I read your belief that this is all a big scam cooked up by BIG TATTOO. I love it. Best thing I read all day!

  • MargoW
    3 years ago

    Today is the first time I’ve heard of daith piercing for migraine relief and incredibly, there’s a segment on the local news (Phoenix AZ, channel 5 ABC) about daith piercings.This is almost too much of a coincidence for me not to consider this piercing.

    I suffer from chronic daily migraines and have been getting them for 35 years now. I’m down to the point where no preventative medications work for me and I get limited relief from sumatriptan injections.

    BTW, the news segment says that the number of requests for daith piercings is rapidly growing but that more research is required before it can be determined if this practice really helps prevent migraines.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    I’m sorry to hear that you are not getting good results from migraine treatment. You mention that no preventives are working and that sumatriptan doesn’t always work well. Did you know that there are several other triptans available and that they all work differently? Maybe it’s time to ask your doctor for a change? Also, I was wondering if you knew that there are over 100 different medicines that can be used to treat migraine. If your doctor doesn’t know about all of these options, it might be time to get a second opinion from a headache specialist.

    I’ve had migraine for over 41 years. Only in the last few years have I actually found options that truly work. That happened because I searched for and found a headache specialist.

    This article might help: https://migraine.com/blog/how-are-migraine-specialists-different/

  • MargoW
    3 years ago

    I’ve never heard of a daith piercing until just an hour ago. I understand the effects that acupressure points have and often try that technique in a number of places when I have a killer migraine attack. I have a bunch of questions about this practice:

    1. Does it matter which ear you have pierced? Or should you have both done?
    2. Is it as painful as an upper ear cartilage piercing?
    3. How long does it take to heal?
    4. Are they very hard to take care of and keep clean until they heal?

    I remember getting my upper ear cartilage piercing and it took 18 months to fully heal and it hurt like heck. Does anyone have experience with this? Do you go to any piercing parlor to get this done or is it something a doctor or acupuncturist should do?

    Thanks!
    Margo, chronic migraneur for 35 years and counting

  • Tamara Johnson
    3 years ago

    Hi Margo
    Regarding your questions:
    1. I read you should get it on the side you have toe migraine symptoms. I got mine on my right ear. My brother got both eats done
    2. I have very hard cartilage. There was some pain but nothing compared to the pain I would get during migraines.
    3. Usually 6 months to completely heal. Mine and my brothers was about 5 1/2 months. The pain eased within about a week. It was tender if hit.
    4. I didn’t think the care was difficult. Twice a day I soaked a cotton ball in the salt water mixture and held the cotton ball on my ear.
    We went to a tatoo/piercing shop.

    Hope this info helps,
    Tammy a former 55 year chronic migraines sufferer

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Glad you found us! While I can’t speak to your specific questions about the piercing — those are best answered by someone who does piercings for a living. However, daith piercing is not in any way related to acupuncture. The ear points involved in acupuncture are not anywhere near the site of this piercing. If you like piercings and want to give it a try, then that’s one thing. Just please do not believe the hype that it resembles acupuncture in any way.

  • Anna Maija
    3 years ago

    Having suffered with migraines for many years, I have tried so many treatments, and ended up with Botox injections quarterly. For the 2nd time, the Botox seems to have affected my eyes so they are barely open, and I ended up with more headaches! I had been thinking about the Daith piercing for a few months, and I finally did it. I know the people in the shop I went to are not medical professionals. But one of the owners has done numerous Daith piercings and claims to have been trained by a relative who is a neurologist as to where the meridians are and exactly where to put the piercing. It hurt at the time of the piercing, but by the time I got home afterwards, my headache was gone. That was a week ago. Because I had the Botox injections a couple weeks before hand, I guess I won’t really know for 3 months if the piercing really helps. Even with Botox I have some migraines, but so far I have one week with none. Time will tell.

  • mccauley4246
    3 years ago

    I had my daith pierced on Friday. I know it’s not guaranteed to help and I’m ok with that. The worst thing that could happen is I have a new earing or perhaps it may help. Even the piercer made me aware it may not help, he said he’s done a TON of these lately and has heard back and about 60% found relief. Ya, it hurt but if there is a chance it could help with my migraines I’d do it again. In articles it suggests to get the piercing in the ear on the opposite side of your migraines (my migraines are always on the left side, so I got my right ear pierced) So, for me too it triggered a headache. It has only been 4 days but I haven’t had one since that night.

  • jns192 moderator
    3 years ago

    mccauley4246,
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
    It’s interesting to hear that so many people are getting them done.
    I truly hope that it does help alleviate your migraine attacks.
    You may also wish to share your experience on our forums: https://migraine.com/topic/daith-piercing/
    Please keep us posted about how you feel!

    Best,
    Jillian (Migraine.com Team)

  • Lala
    3 years ago

    I had my daith pierced last Wednesday. I know it is too soon to really say, but so far so good. NYE I indulged in too much champagne despite the obvious outcome. I was shocked to discover that my stomach was much worse off than my head. Normally, I would be suffering 2-3 glasses in before the night was even over. This time I barely had a headache. The weather is an automatic trigger for me as well and I haven’t had a migraine or sign of one despite the storm that came in. I’m crossing my fingers this works. I’ve been suffering for years 1-3 times a week and taking Rizatriptan as often as I’m allowed. A break would be a miracle!

  • bbitler
    3 years ago

    I suffer from migraines very often. I recently got the daith piercing and I am happy to report that I have not had a single migraine since. I know it seems like a bunch of hype but I was willing to try anything. I have been taking Sumatriptan for years now and am happy to give my body a break from it. I hate the way that medication makes me feel. The daith worked for me and the piercing is really quite discreet since you can cover it with your hair.

  • 103rp2y
    3 years ago

    http://www.allure.com/beauty-trends/blogs/daily-beauty-reporter/2015/11/daith-piercings-migraines.html

    You state that no one has posted an article interviewing an acupuncturist. Here is a link to an article that does exactly that. It still doesn’t give solid proof that it works but I thought you’d like to see it.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Yes, thanks for the addition to our knowledge about this issue. The more we learn, the better off we all will be!

  • Lynn Voedisch
    3 years ago

    Could you please tell me what “daith” means? There is nowhere in the article that explains where this piercing is, except for the word “tarsus,” which is also not specific.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    The piercing is located on the innermost fold of the ear, just above the ear canal opening. If you do an image search for “daith piercing” you can see images of it. I could not include an image because they are all copyrighted. Sorry for the confusion — so many people are getting posts about it, that I incorrectly assumed readers have seen an image already.

  • Saundra
    3 years ago

    I actually spoke to my acupuncturist about both the daith and targus piercings, as there are some acupressure treatments used in those areas that have helped. He agreed that the odds of finding a piercer who put it in the right place were pretty slim (more a matter of luck) and also pointed out that the constantcy of the piercing would eventually dull the nerves, etc. rendering it ineffective eventually.
    Hope that helps someone.

  • Saundra
    3 years ago

    By the way- I have several friends with migraines who had it done and noticed the ‘happy accident’ that it helped.

  • Hope and a Prayer
    3 years ago

    Like you, I will pass on a daith piercing, but it’s not because you dissuaded me. Your informative, well-written and well-balanced article left the decision to me and I appreciate that. Your non-judgemental approach leaves the door open for anyone who has this piercing to share their experiences. I look forward to hearing from them and will be following this in the media as well. If in the future research supports daith piercing, I’ll be on my way to the nearest piercer.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Love your balanced mindset! Getting all the facts before choosing a course of action in any situation is a good idea. Like you, I would love to hear from anyone who has this piercing, whether the results were positive, negative, or none at all. Thanks for stopping by!

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