An Update On Daith Piercings

daith migraineI wrote my first article on Daith piercings about a year and a half ago. As many know, this has been advocated for the treatment of headaches. The questions I have been asked since that time have been numerous but the most common question is, “Will it work for me?” I obviously cannot tell if it work for anyone in particular. I have heard from many that it has helped them manage their migraine headaches. Most interesting to me was some of my regular patients have tried it successfully.

Daith Piercing Information

Daith piercings are a specific type of ear piercing. The ear cartilage midline toward the front of the ear is pierced. This type of ear piercing has been around for 3,000 years, but the name “Daith piercing” was probably started in the 1990’s. The placement of the piercing is at the entrance to the ear canal and has symbolic meaning as the “Guardian to the Gate.” This piercing can be quite painful, and since it is through bony cartilage, care must be given to keep the site clean and to prevent infection.

There are many types of headaches, and only certain types of headaches will respond to Daith piercings. Those most likely to improve are migraines that are sensitive to ear stimulation, and likely to be one sided in nature. Daily headaches may be caused be a variety of factors – most common are muscle tension and stress headaches. Muscle tension headaches are caused by neck muscles tightening up, often associated with the position one has while working on a computer. Stress type headaches are caused by psychological factors that make a person anxious.  The most common headache in my practice are those associated with neck problems; either from nerve and disc problems or from the joints in the neck causing pain. These types of headaches are best treated successfully by managing the underlying causes.

Managing Headaches

The headaches that have been managed by Daith piercings are those that are migraine headaches. If you have been diagnosed by a neurologist with definite migraine headache (not self diagnosed), Daith piercings may be a treatment option. Over the last 18 months of studying this subject, an interesting correlation occurred to me that this treatment was similar to acupuncture and vagal nerve stimulation. All these treatments seem to affect the vagal nerve via a branch near the ear, which sends signals back to the brain that may affect various neurotransmitters and hormones that lead to vascular headaches.

Unfortunately, the true scientific proof and medical evidence with regards to Daith piercings is not present. All the results when one researches the topic seem to be stories that it worked for them. There is some basis as noted above why it may work. For those who are interested, a few cautions should be remembered. First, this is specifically going to work best for migraine headaches. If you have frequent and sometimes severe headaches, and they are not easily managed, first see a medical doctor and possibly a neurologist and get a good diagnosis made, and try conventional treatment. The cause should be treated first and may be straight forward to manage. If the headaches are migraines, and they are not responding to management, Daith piercing may be reasonable. Physicians normally do not perform this procedure, so do not ask them to do it. Only get this done by someone who does body piercings and is familiar with this particular one. It is extremely important that meticulous care is performed before and afterwards to keep the area clean and free from infection. Since this is through ear cartilage, near the brain, an infection in the area can be very dangerous and should be treated aggressively by a doctor.

If you want to run a test before piercing, first try massaging the area of the ear when you have a headache and see if that makes a difference. Another possibility is to try acupuncture to see if that works. Most acupuncturists will report what they do is different than the piercing and this is not going to be equal to the piercing, but it may be safer and easier for a test. If you go ahead with a piercing, make sure you try to prevent an infection in the area of the piercing.

Headaches, Daith Piercings, and the Vagus Nerve

42212395_lOn November 28th, Science News published an interesting article on the science of the vagus nerve in the human body. It is the tenth cranial nerve in the body traveling from the brain to multiple organs in the body. It has thousand of fibers, and it influences functions throughout the body from the stomach and intestines to the heart and brain. The nerve has fibers that travel relatively superficially through the neck and in the skin of the ear. Stimulation of the vagus nerve in the neck has been used for a variety of disorders including many stomach and gastrointestinal problems as well as depression and seizures. Now the ear is the focus of treatment of number of problems by stimulating the vagus nerve as it travels in the region of the tragus of the ear.

The Vagus Nerve and Headaches

Headaches are extremely common. Many people struggle with the management of chronic daily headaches. Drugs are often not the answer, and can oftentimes make headaches worse. A lot of people also do not want to be putting more chemicals into their body. Finding suitable alternatives is difficult. Treatments for headaches run the gamut from diets to all kinds of supplements to stress management. Alternative medicine also has a number of treatments from chiropractic adjustment to acupuncture. Now there may be link to why these therapies work in terms of traditional medical knowledge, it is not just a coincidence they are effective.

Daith piercings and regionalized acupuncture for headache relief may now have a scientific root in the vagus nerve. This nerve has sensory branches that travel in the ear in the region of where the targets for acupuncture are and where a Daith piercing is placed. Electrical stimulation of the ear and vagus nerve has been done to treat headaches, depression, memory loss, and seizures. The vagus nerve has control over a variety of the body’s hormones, including acetylcholine and norepinephrine. The balance of these hormones can be affected by stimulating branches of the vagus nerve. Electrical or mechanical stimulation in the ear can accomplish changes to the branch of the vagus nerve and thus affect any process influenced by this nerve. Headaches have been known to be affected by vagal stimulation, and some have found pain relief through nerve stimulation.

As noted above, some headaches respond to vagal stimulation and improve, while others don’t. There are multiple ways to stimulate the nerve – electrical stimulation, mechanical stimulation as well as medication stimulation. Acupuncture, massage and Daith piercings provide mechanical stimulation of the region and possibly the nerve. Some varieties may respond to different types of stimulation. If your headaches have a vagal component, probably ear massage, electrical stimulation or acupuncture trials will determine if this may be helpful. If those work, consideration of Daith piercing for headaches may be aligned with your treatment strategies. If the above is not helpful, working with a neurologist, a  headache specialist or pain specialist may also be helpful to find other solutions.

Daith Piercings For Migraines

Daith PiercingThe internet is a weird place. Back in March, I penned a short, 4-paragraph blog post on the correlation between daith piercings and migraine relief. You can check out the full blog post here, but I’ll provide a short summary for those who want to stay on this page.

In essence, a daith piercing is a type of piercing located in the ear cartilage midline toward the front of the inner ear. You can see a picture of the piercing on the right side of this blog. Although the science behind the piercing hasn’t been fully researched, the location of the piercing has actually been targeted by acupuncturists to help cure headaches. Acupuncturists target this area during sessions, and many people experience short-term headache relief after treatment.

Anybody who experiences frequent headaches or migraines can tell you just how debilitating the pain can be, and odds are they’ve tried numerous treatments to solve the problem. Could a daith piercing be the answer they are looking for?

Long Term Headache Relief

In the beginning of the blog I mentioned that the internet is a weird place. That’s because that blog on daith piercings went viral, and our site saw more traffic in a week than we did in all of 2014. People really wanted to learn more about Daith piercings, and they had a lot of questions. The most common question was, “Which side of my head should I get the piercing on?”

There is no specific answer, but thankfully, just like a brand new car, you can try it before you can buy it. What I mean by that is you can visit an acupuncturist and see if needles in certain parts of your cartilage provide some relief. If you find that it works, maybe it’s worth considering a permanent piercing.

For those of you who are needle-adverse, locating the daith piercing location may still help provide relief. If you begin to have a migraine, take your thumb and middle finger and gently massage that location on your ear. Switch ears after a few minutes, or massage both at the same time. If you notice significant relief, and you deal with regular headaches, a daith piercing could be a worthwhile solution.

Lastly, as I pointed out in the beginning of the article, there isn’t a lot of hard science behind the correlation between daith piercings and headache relief. Some people have found relief with this method, but it certainly won’t work for everybody. But, if you suffer from regular headaches and all other solutions have failed, it may be worth investigating further. I’ve read comments from readers who have said the procedure has helped to control their headaches, so if you pursue the procedure, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know how you are feeling in the days and weeks after the operation, and I’d be willing to let a few of you share your thoughts in a guest blog piece. I really just want people to find relief from pain, and your insights can help.