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.

What Patients Are Saying About Daith Piercings

Daith piercing work minnesotaOur post on Daith piercings has been by far our most popular blog post, and it’s clear many people are fed up with their chronic migraines. We’ve never touted the Daith piercing as a surefire fix to migraine pain, we’ve only stated that it’s a relatively cheap alternative option for individuals who are fed up with failed treatments. Some people took issue with the fact that the piercing isn’t backed by clinical science, and while it draws on some of the same pain pathways as acupuncture, we made it clear that there was no hard science behind the pain management technique.

Well, our readers have taken to the comment section of the original post, and many have shared their first-hand experience with the piercing. Again, it may not be for everybody, but here’s what patients who have had the piercing are saying about it.

I’ll provide more anecdotal, non-scientific “evidence.” Mine cost $25 each. BEST money ever spent. Ever. Chronic migraine sufferer for over 20 years. This has been the only thing that has consistently worked. Now I can deal with the sinus/hormone headaches and not have them compounding and piggybacking each other. Given a choice between a piercing I could remove or narcotics, it would be a piercing every single time. My piercer is great, though. I don’t know that I would have trusted any one else to do it- unless she gave the ok.

I just had my daith piercing done a week ago in hopes of helping with my chronic migraines. So far I’ve had two migraines since, so I don’t think it is helping, but I believe mine are largely hormone related so I don’t know that a piercing would be able to help. Just wanted to say that I still think it’s a cute piercing and will keep it regardless AND the pain really wasn’t that bad. I went to a local tattoo shop with a great reputation and the pain was no worse than my other cartilage piercing that I had had done before. It hurt worse putting the actual earring in, but overall really not a bad pain level. Good luck!

I have suffered from migraines for the past several years. I would get one and it would last for several days, then 1 day off, then back to migraines. I was desperate and had heard of the daith piercing. I did not put much stock into it. Again, I was desperate, so I got it done. I was a little painful (pain is subjective). My piercer said that he was not a doctor and could not cure migraines, but just about everyone that he had done, had good results. I wasn’t expecting a miracle. Even if it just cut down on the frequency, that would have been fine. It has been 2 months and I have not had a single migraine. I stopped taking my preventative when I got the piercing to see if it would work. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked for me. Even if my migraines come back, I had a few months pain free and that is so worth it.

I suffered from migraines and headaches. I gotten the daith piercing and it helped a lot I don’t get them any more. My tattoo artist is also a piercer and done it for me. The only thing that really hurt was the clamp cause where it’s in the ear it’s a hard place to get too and you’ll feel some pressure for a couple days but it’s worth it in the end.

I’ve had migraines for 44 years. Mostly left sided. Many times in cycles of 2-3 weeks of either waking up with one, or going to bed with one. Nausea, noise, light sensitivity… the whole bit. I can’t take most migraine meds because of a heart issue. Not much to help with them, pretty much most meds might as well be candy. Went in for the piercing during the third day of a migraine. Yes, it hurt for a brief moment, but compared to weeks of headaches, it was NOTHING!!! As soon as the piercing went in, the intense pain behind my eye and the nausea were gone! And the next morning, absolutely no headache and no ‘headache hangover’ as after most migraines. So far, so good. If it doesn’t work, I have not lost much, and will take it out. If it continues to work….GREAT! Many people seem to want many scientific studies done on this, but, I believe for the most part, most studies are funded by pharmaceutical companies, and what company that makes lots of money on migraine meds, would want to study something that could cut down on their business?!?! Just my opinion, but drugs aren’t always the answer to fix things, like some doctors believe. If you truly suffer with debilitating migraines, then you are always looking for a way to make the pain stop. What do you have to lose?

Hi, I had suffered with migraines for 35 years. I used to get around 3 a week but my tablets did work if I took them in time or didn’t wake up with the migraine. I was told to get the piercing on the side I have the most frequent migraines which is my left side. I had the piercing 3 months ago and have had no left sided migraines since, just 2 on my right side buy I can cope with only 2 migraines in 3 months. The piercing does hurt when you have it done but for me, well worth it.

I have been a migraine sufferer since I was a young girl and now I am 57 yrs. old, I have tried it all, Botox worked the best but still had many Migraines and insurance eventually stopped paying, I recently had the daith or rook piercing done, the next day I had the worst migraine but since then I am in shock how, (So Far) it is working for me, I sure hope it continues, its been about 8 weeks, I NEVER go that long without a migraine, so hoping it continues!

I had nearly daily migraines. Imitrex made me too groggy but Excedrine Migraine deadened the pain enough to “function”. Avoiding triggers wasn’t always an option since I had barometric migraines (trigger: weather changes). It was only a week ago I got a Daith Piercing….I have not had any headache all week…a record for the last several years. I feel better so I’ve gotten better sleep than I remember for ages.

So as you can see, it’s certainly helped some patients. For more information, or to read more comments from readers, check out the original post!

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.