If you suffer from migraines, you know that you’ll do almost anything to prevent a migraine or to stop one as soon as you feel it coming on. From pain killers to dietary changes to acupuncture, you’ve probably tried it all at least once. But there’s one surprising new preventative measure for migraines that you may not have considered or even heard of: piercing.
Recently, a number of migraine sufferers have come forward to say that piercing the daith, a small cartilage fold in the outer ear, has relieved their migraine pain.
Here’s what you need to know about piercing for migraine relief.
Where to Pierce for Migraine Relief
Migraine sufferers who have found relief through piercing recommend piercing the daith, which is a part of bony cartilage located in the upper part of the visible outer ear.
Although there has been no clinical research to prove that piercing is an effective migraine preventative or treatment, individual anecdotes are promising. Many migraine sufferers who have tried piercing say that it has reduced both the frequency and intensity of their migraines.
Kimberly Glatz states on Cure Bank that since getting her daith pierced, she has “definitely seen an improvement and i[piercing] worth trying.” Natalie Thompson similarly reports that as a result of her daith piercing, “[her] headache has gone from a five or six out of 10 down to a three.”
Why Piercing May Help Migraines
Proponents of piercing for migraine relief often point to its similarity to acupuncture. A treatment originating in China over 2,000 years ago, acupuncture involves the placement of tiny needles into various points of the body. Acupuncture has long been used as an alternative treatment for chronic pain, and in 2004 a scientific study proved acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating migraines and other chronic headaches.
Daith piercing is believed to work like acupuncture by exerting light pressure on a specific pressure point in the ear that corresponds to headaches. Piercing artist Dave Kurlander suggests piercing on the same side in which migraines most frequently or severely occur.
Due to the lack of clinical research, it is not definitively clear why piercing may help reduce migraines, or whether the treatment works at all for most people. As Tammy Rome of Migraine.com points out, it’s equally possible that migraine sufferers have reported relief not from the piercing itself, but from the piercing’s placebo effect.
Regardless of the exact reason for its reported effectiveness, daith piercing is a relatively low-risk and low-cost method to try for migraine prevention and treatment. Thomas Cohn, a Minnesota-based interventional pain doctor, suggests that “[daith piercing] certainly won’t work for everybody, but if…all other solutions have failed, it may be worth investigating further.”
Tips for Piercing for Migraine and Anxiety Relief
If you’re considering a daith piercing to help relieve your migraines, keep the following tips in mind to make sure the piercing is safe and effective.
Consult with your doctor.
Always speak with your primary physician or migraine specialist before starting any new treatment, including piercing. Your doctor can advise you on common piercing concerns and make sure that your piercing works in tandem with any medicinal approaches.
Know that piercing does not work for everyone.
Because this is not yet a scientifically proven treatment, it’s impossible to know how often daith piercings provide migraine relief. In fact, some sufferers have actually reported that piercing worsened their migraines. If your migraines have not improved within several to many months, consider an alternative treatment plan.
Start a migraine diary.
Before you get pierced, start keeping a diary of your migraine history. Note migraine frequency, type, and intensity, along with any known triggers. (Migraine triggers vary from person to person but typically include certain foods, alcohols, and environmental factors.) Continue the diary after you’ve gotten your piercing to monitor your progress.
Choose a licensed practitioner to pierce you.
Just like any other elective piercing, be sure to choose a piercing studio that is clean, reputable, and licensed. Read reviews of local piercing studios, and if possible, choose one that has experience with piercing for migraines. Discuss your intention with the piercing artist so he or she can determine the best location for the piercing.
Watch out for infection.
Because the daith and the traigus are both relatively thick areas of cartilage, they may be more prone to infection from piercing than other parts of your body. Clean your piercing according to instructions from your piercing artist, and be aware of early signs of infection. If the infection does not resolve with cleaning and over-the-counter remedies, seek medical attention.
Do you suffer from migraines? Check out this interesting infographic about the four stages of a migraine so you can treat them more effectively.
Featured photo credit: Gustavo Malpartida via flickr.com
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