My Experience with the “Daith” Piercing
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I noticed the correlation between the piercing of cartilage areas of my ears and a short term lessening of head pain several years ago, before I began seeing posts and memes about the daith (rhymes with moth) piercing being a supposed “cure” for migraines.

Not a placebo effect

I got my first cartilage piercings and tattoos about twenty years ago. I like how they look, and I like the process, and always receive a bit of head pain relief afterward. The time I got the most relief was after my tragus piercings, which I had done about one year apart. The tragus is that really thick part of the ear, on the skull side, protecting the entrance to the inner ear. Before the first one, I had been needing to go to the ER every 3-4 weeks, and afterward I didn’t go for several months. It could have been coincidence; what it wasn’t was placebo effect, since I wasn’t expecting anything other than a cool looking accessory. I got the other side done when I took X to the shop to get her earlobes pierced, and noticed relief then as well.

Double conch piercing

Because of my love for piercings, I was a perfect guinea pig for an actual daith piercing to see if it worked. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t have lost anything. So as the piercing “cure” controversy continued swirling that year (2015), I went to my tattoo and body piercing shop and asked specifically for my daith to be pierced. However, the piercer looked at my ear and said that he couldn’t pierce the daith safely, because mine was way too small. This is why I love that shop, and trust the artists who work there. When I told him what I was looking to do, and he suggested a double conch piercing, because he gets migraines as well and noticed a slight improvement after having his done. I readily agreed.

The two punctures were not nearly as painful as the tragus piercings, which makes sense, since that part of the ear is thinner. I super loved the result as far as appearance. They also healed easily and quickly, though lying on my right side was a little painful for a while. Ironically, this time I noticed little to no migraine relief.

Acupuncture points for migraine

Sktech of a daith piercing
My sketch of acupuncture points relative to migraine and where daith piercings are supposed to be located.

A couple months later, I found a fabulous article on Live Oak Acupuncture‘s website, written by acupuncturist Kristen Horner Warren with help from piercer Elayne Angel. The first thing I noticed was a photo of an ear with the daith labeled, as well as the actual acupuncture points for migraine, which Live Oak shows with dots in a line down the middle of the ear, closer to my conch piercings than the daith (and even farther from the tragus). I sketched the photo below, adding the tragus and conch labels. It’s definitely worth mentioning that when I googled acupuncture sites on the ear for migraine, I got some varying results, though none of them pointed to the daith. Most commonly the daith area seems to correspond with the large intestine.

Live Oak’s points on the ear for migraine also show that they understand that migraine is a multifaceted illness, since one of those dots definitely lines up with what I found in most images as “stomach.” But anyway, the theory is that the daith piercing works to lessen migraine pain because that spot is an acupuncture point for head pain, that the piercing is almost like a permanent pin in it, putting pressure on just the right spot. But it’s not true. And migraine is much more than just head pain.

Not a cure

Sktech of a daith piercing
My own ear with my various (not daith) piercings. My daith was too small to safely pierce.

Also, this: “The daith is an advanced piercing that is often done incorrectly. A bad piercing… is likely to result in excessive pain and serious problems with healing.” The benefits noted by patients tracked by the pair lasted only one week to approximately one month. “Clinical experience suggests that body piercings offer temporary therapeutic benefit at best. They definitely do not represent a long term cure for any condition, including migraines.”1

And that brings me to my biggest problem with the posts, memes, and articles claiming the daith piercing is beneficial for migraine sufferers: the word “cure.” Migraine is a neurological disease and the symptoms are incredibly difficult to treat and manage. There is no cure–not medication, not surgery, not Botox, TENS units, trigger point injections, not even the newly developed CGRP drugs. And certainly not a difficult to correctly administer and properly heal cartilage piercing.

Do any of you have the daith piercing? Let me know!

view references
  1. Kristen Horner Warren,  "No, getting your ear pierced will not cure your migraines," LiveOakAcupuncture.com, Nov. 21 2015.
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