Endless Search for Solutions in Migraine: Ear Staples and Dead Chickens

Recently, one of my closest allies in the fight against migraine (a fellow migraineur in her own right) shared a solution that she just found. Due to the fact that she is someone I hugely respect both as a person and someone who knows the world of migraine, I listened with great interest. At a recent chiropractic appointment, her doctor had recommended and given her ear staples.  Since that time, her nearly daily migraines dramatically faded in both frequency and intensity.  She described having absolute clarity between headaches – times when she was completely free of pain.  Her description made my mouth water.  I understood precisely what she meant by clarity and I could see that she was beginning to get her life back.  She was beginning to exercise again – her husband was seeing a marked change – her energy was different.

Ear staples, like so many other approaches, was not designed or intended for migraine.  In truth the condition is so utterly complex that researchers are STILL unclear as to the actual causes of migraines.  Migraines are known as the ugly stepchild of the medical field.  For many reasons, research isn’t focusing on this issue despite the fact that over 36 million Americans suffer from the condition.  Drug development for migraine-specific medication is badly needed, as most of the medications allotted to us “migraineurs” are leftovers or lucky coincidences - meds that were created for other uses that just happened to prove useful for migraines in some cases.

Botox is the perfect example of this. Given to women to address wrinkly foreheads, some of those same women came back to their doctor's months later reporting that their headaches had either dissipated or disappeared after their facial injections. Botox was eventually deemed an appropriate treatment approach for people with chronic migraine.

The same story goes for ear stapling. Created some 20 years ago by a nurse who was studying both acupressure and surgery, she thought of combining the two modalities such that a surgical staple could be inserted in a key acupressure point to provide constant pressure over the course of months to induce a more significant turnaround in a challenge facing the body.  Interestingly, the acupressure ear staple was created to address weight control and smoking cessation, but some people who had the procedure came back reporting that their headaches had ceased (or decreased).

I followed through on this referral at a low point and in some desperation.  My pain pattern is daily and intense but had worked its way up to the point that it wasn’t responding to any medication I had on hand, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose.  The procedure was quick and a bit like getting the ears pierced. Unlike daith piecring, ear staples do not fully pierce the skin. They merely poke into the skin in order to stimulate the area. I was told to return between 8-12 weeks later to have them removed for a reset at which point after a weeklong break they would put them in again.

Ten days following the procedure, I, too, experienced a dramatic shift in my pain.  My migraines moved from being fully unmanageable and my use of rescue medication dramatically decreased.  However, like most new approaches I try, the success was short-lived. I sometimes feel as if my migraines are similar to an insect or rodent - let’s call it a migraine troll - living underground. It is always looking to get from point A (no pain) to point B (pain). If I place a barrier (a new solution) in the way of the usual route, I might experience relief. Generally though, it’s just a matter of time before the migraine troll finds a new route to point B. Unfortunately, such was the case for the ear staples.

I am not one to recommend one therapeutic solution over another, as I know full well that what works for one person rarely works for someone else.  I have seen that scenario play out countless times when I followed through on referrals for “brilliant” solutions that have changed the lives of others, only to find that they fall flat for me.  So, I pass this ear stapling thing along with only a whisper in your ear… on the off chance that, like me, you’ve never heard of it and would be interested in doing your own research to see if it might be something you’d like to pursue for yourself.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Given the pain migraine causes, I’ll staple my ears if that what it takes.  And to quote my migraine friend “I’d wear a dead chicken around my neck if that’d help,” too.

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