Drilling a Hole in Your Skull for Migraine Relief

Have you ever wanted to drill a hole in your head to reduce your migraine pain? You’re not the first to think of this technique – trepanation, the official term for drilling a hole in one’s head for relief from brain-related diseases, has been used as a migraine treatment throughout history, with evidence of it’s use even found in prehistoric cave paintings. It was thought to be effective by either reliving pressure around the brain or releasing evil spirits.

In case you’re considering it, please know there’s absolutely no evidence supporting trepanation as a migraine treatment. During a migraine attack, it may feel like the pressure is too high in your skull or that your brain is pushing against your skull, but neither of those things are genuinely happening. There is no physiological change to the actual pressure within your skull. And, of course, while migraine may seem like evil spirits infesting your brain, that’s not happening either. So, in addition to being phenomenally unsafe, trepanation won’t even do anything to relieve migraine.

I conceived of this post as a way to share a bit of history and make a joke about drilling a hole in your head as a way to relieve migraine pain while simultaneously creating a great Halloween costume. Reading about the procedure quickly made me realize that trepanation is nothing to joke about. There are people and even an international organization promoting the use of trepanation for improving brain function and achieving higher consciousness. I’m scared to find out for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find DIY trepanation instructions on the internet.

What started out as a joke has me really weirded out. I’m pretty sure you all know trepanation is only a migraineur’s daydream when we’re desperate for relief. I don’t want to insult anyone by assuming you’d actually drill a hole in your head. Still, the desperation for migraine relief is unbelievably powerful (I’ve proven this to myself time and again, most recently by malnourishing myself for months). In those moments when it seems like every other treatment has failed and a person is nearly delirious with pain, I could see trepanation appearing to be an almost reasonable option. Just to be clear, it’s not.

Trepanation: Don’t try this at home!

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