Body piercing practices have many origins and cultural variations, including Indian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Roman cultures. Western cultures are much the same, and a daith piercing has been recently introduced as a potential cure and treatment for migraines and anxiety — but does it work?
Daith piercing is a petite piercing in the interfold of the ear, near the ear canal. It is said to help relieve migraine headaches and anxiety.
Daith piercings are said to apply constant pressure, similar to an acupuncture treatment, to the nerve and reduce migraines.
Claims have been made that a daith piercing can help those suffering from migraines — however, there is no scientific data to back this up.
Piercings have many complications, including infection and transmission of bloodborne diseases.
What is a daith piercing?
A daith piercing is a piercing that goes through the innermost cartilage of the ear fold near the ear canal. It is a relatively new form of piercing. This piercing practice dates back to Santa Cruz, California, in the early 1990s. However, it was never intended to be a treatment or cure for anxiety or migraines until later years.
Piercing practices worldwide are considered for cosmetic purposes only — anyone promising that a piercing can cure or treat a medical condition could be breaking the law.
People seeking treatment for medical conditions should always speak to a medical professional before consulting professionals in nonmedical roles.
Daith piercings are typically done with a curved barbell or a bead ring. Due to the thickness of the cartilage in the area, the daith piercing can take several months to heal completely and can sometimes be more painful than other piercings.
How does a daith piercing work to relieve migraines?
Many people claim that daith piercings, as well as tragus piercings, have helped with everything from migraines to anxiety — however, according to medical professionals, this is more likely a placebo effect.
Headaches and migraines are the most commonly reported diseases in the United States. Migraines can cause moderate to severe disability in more than 28% of those who suffer. It’s no wonder people are turning to alternative methods to treat and possibly cure their migraine headaches.
Daith piercings are said to sit directly at a pressure point in the cartilage that is similar to where an acupuncturist would apply pressure to treat migraine headaches. The daith piercing is said to continually apply pressure and tension around the pressure-point area, lessening the symptoms of migraines and anxiety.
It is said that those suffering from migraines should get the piercing on the side they have the most pain. Some people choose to get a daith piercing on both sides as they suffer from migraines that affect both sides of the head.
Although this treatment option sounds promising to those who suffer, there is currently no supporting evidence that the daith piercing option works as an effective treatment for anxiety and migraine headaches.
Are daith piercings proven by science?
There is very little scientific research into the efficacy of daith piercings for the reduction of anxiety and migraines. The information that does exist is either self reported or limited in scope.
A study was done in 2020 on adolescents who reported migraine headaches reported that of the 161 participants, 75% of those who participated reported a reduction in the severity of migraine headaches and less lost time at school and work. This is a subjective study — no other studies found the same evidence when performing brain scans alongside the reports from participants.
More medically accurate studies have been done, and monitoring brain activity through brain scans such as an MRI or CY scan, suggest there is no evidence of brain changes due to the piercing.
"No standard recommendations support the use of a daith piercing in treating or relieving symptoms of anxiety or migraine."Statement by The American Migraine Foundation
Although the subjective study did perform well and promoted evidence that a daith piercing could treat or relieve symptoms of migraine headaches, there is still no medically accurate evidence that supports these claims.
What are the risks of daith piercing?
There are many things to consider when thinking about getting a daith piercing or, basically, any other piercing on the ear; these include:
- Infection. Unsterile piercing equipment or poor aftercare can lead to severe infections at the piercing site. Signs of infection may include redness, swelling, pain, or discharge.
- Allergic reaction. Some people may be allergic to the metals used in piercing materials and jewelry. This can cause redness, itching, and swelling at the site.
- Scarring. Improper care can lead to excessive movement of the jewelry, and can cause scarring at the site. This can lead to an unsightly appearance and discomfort.
- Piercing rejection. Jewelry can sometimes move out of place, causing the piercing to be rejected and causing scaring or pain.
- Nerve damage. Nerve damage can lead to numbness or tingling. With daith piercings in particular, numerous nerves run along the ears, especially in cartilage areas.
- Keloids. Some people are prone to rare scars, called keloids, at the piercing site. This can cause discomfort or an unsightly appearance.
- Blood-borne diseases. There is always a small risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, when getting a piercing. If the equipment is not sterilized correctly, the changes are significantly higher.
Other ways to treat migraine headaches
If you're suffering from migraines, there are other ways how you can try to relieve the pain:
- Acupuncture. It is a widely used practice in the treatment and relief of symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as migraine headaches. The ancient traditional medicine of acupuncture is said to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by applying pressure to areas of tension, and in the same way, can relieve symptoms of migraine headaches.
- Cold shower or bath. Relaxing in cold water, either a bath or a shower, can reduce inflammation throughout the body and, in turn, can soothe the nervous system. This can soothe the pain of a migraine headache and be repeated throughout the day to alleviate symptoms.
- Red light. Bright blue and green light can trigger an aura or photophobia headaches in those who experience migraine headaches, which can cause increased pain and sensitivity. Red light therapy can reduce the pain and sensitivity caused by blue light and ease the symptoms and pain of a migraine headache.
While some people may claim to have experienced a reduction in their migraine symptoms because of a daith piercing, there is currently no accurate medical or scientific evidence that supports this as an effective treatment.
It’s essential to remember that the effectiveness of a daith piercing to treat migraine headaches and anxiety is not scientifically proven — however, a placebo effect can affect a person’s experience. It can be important not to judge an individual’s experience with a daith piercing if they are using it as a treatment method for migraine headaches or anxiety.
- Frontiers in Neurology. Daith Piercing in a Case of Chronic Migraine: A Possible Vagal Modulation.
- Cureus. Daith Piercing: Wonder Treatment or Untested Fad?
- Multidisciplinary Scientific Journal. Perceptions Regarding Daith Piercing in Migraine, A Survey of Pediatric Patients.
- American Migraine Foundation. Daith Piercings, and Migraines.