Daith piercings and migraine: Research, alternative treatments, and acupuncture
In the United States, more than 37 million people are affected by migraines. According to the Migraine Trust in the United Kingdom, migraine is the third most common disease in the world, affecting around 1 in 7 people.
In this article, we look at daith piercings and examine the available evidence around this treatment. Our aim is to answer the question: could daith piercings be effective in treating migraines?
We also explore other related alternative remedies as well as more traditional treatments for migraines.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is more than just a regular headache. It is an attack of severe head pain that generally lasts for hours but can last days.
Migraines are usually accompanied by sensory symptoms, including:
- flashes of light
- blind spots
- tingling in the arms and legs
- increased sensitivity to light and sound
Which groups are most affected?
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines are more commonly experienced by certain groups, including:
- those aged 35 to 55
- lower socioeconomic groups
Migraines are the cause of a huge financial burden. A person who experiences regular migraines spends an average of $145 per month on migraine related healthcare costs. By comparison, those who do not get migraines spend an average $89 per month.
When it comes to treatment, not every therapy option will work for every person. Some of the options available to migraine sufferers include the use of:
- medications to treat and prevent migraine attacks
- transcranial magnetic stimulation
- transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation
- supplements and herbs
Daith piercing has recently grown in popularity as a potential treatment for migraines.
This type of body piercing involves the piercing of the innermost cartilage fold of the ear.
In an attempt to replicate acupuncture, the daith piercing is applied to the same part of the ear where an acupuncture needle is inserted.
Practitioners believe people with migraines will experience fewer symptoms after a daith piercing.
Some of those who have had the daith piercing claim that it has reduced the occurrence and impact of their migraines.
Are daith piercings effective?
Generally, people who seek out daith piercings to treat their migraines are people that have found acupuncture helpful but are looking for a long-term solution.
However, neurologist and trustee of the Migraine Trust, Dr. Fayyaz Ahmed, has said: “There is no evidence that daith piercing work to help migraine.”
Aside from Dr. Ahmed’s statement, there is limited information on the topic. As such, expert recommendations on this form of migraine treatment are limited.
To make an informed decision as to the value of daith piercings, people will need to research the procedure carefully, taking into account the known risks.
Risks of daith piercings
As with any body piercing, daith piercings carry risks. Some these risks are more serious than others and include:
- infections during healing with pathogens, such bacteria, yeast, hepatitis, HIV or tetanus
- bacterial infections that occur after healing has occurred
- allergic reaction (to jewelry)
- nerve damage, including loss of sensation
- scarring or keloids
Before undergoing daith piercing to relieve a migraine, it is wise to speak with a qualified acupuncturist or auriculotherapy practitioner. These alternative therapists may help an individual decide whether daith piercing is a preferable option to the therapies they offer.
A daith piercing is one of many alternative treatments that might be used to treat migraines. Other alternative treatments include:
- stress reducing practices, such as yoga or meditation
- use of essential oils, such as lavender
- making dietary changes
- herbal treatments
- vitamins and other substances
Acupuncture is a Chinese technique of healing that dates back to 200BC. It has grown in popularity in the West since the 1970s.
As described by traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture sees illness and disease as a disturbance in the “vital force” energy. Referred to as “qi,” this energy flows along a path of fourteen body surface areas or meridians.
Western medical acupuncture focuses more on the biologic effects of needling on the body. The theory is that the nervous system receives benefit from the use of acupuncture when the needles are placed both near and far from the source of pain.
Acupuncture performed by a qualified acupuncturist is relatively safe with minimal side effects. There are some minor risks, including:
- minor bruising or bleeding
- temporary worsening of symptoms
- pain at the site of the needle
It is vital to seek the care of a qualified and highly trained acupuncturist to avoid serious, yet rare side effects. These may include:
- lung or heart membrane puncture
- blood-borne disease transmission
- skin infection
A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at the use of acupuncture to treat migraines. It showed that the use of acupuncture might reduce migraine occurrence in the long-term for some people.
Auriculotherapy also referred to as auricular medicine, is similar in some ways to traditional acupuncture. However, some of the equipment used is different. As well as acupuncture needles, auriculotherapy uses:
- focused pressure
- electrical stimulation
All of these tools may be used in auriculotherapy to target certain acupuncture points on the ears in the hope of easing a migraine.
Other treatment options
If people have tried alternative therapies and do not find them helpful, they may look to more traditional western medicine for a means to treat their migraines.
Medical treatments may include:
- prescription or over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain
- prescription drugs that aim to reduce the occurrence of a migraine
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