Why getting a daith piercing likely won't help your migraines, despite popular claims

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A daith piercing is a type of ear piercing that goes through the fold of cartilage above your ear canal. Tristan Savatier/Getty Images
  • An ear piercing for migraines — called a daith piercing — is not a proven treatment and may actually put you at risk for infections.

  • For more effective treatments, try alternative migraine remedies like acupuncture, acupressure, and consuming vitamins such as riboflavin and magnesium.

  • Painkillers like ibuprofen may also help with migraines, along with prescription beta-blockers or anticonvulsants. 

  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

Migraines are a neurological disease that cause intense headaches and other painful symptoms. Some people swear by home remedies to treat migraines, including getting an ear cartilage piercing called a daith piercing. 

While proponents say that getting this piercing helps to cut down pain and prevent migraines, there is no robust scientific research to back up these claims.

Here's what you need to know about whether a daith piercing can help relieve your migraine symptoms - and other treatments that may be more effective. 

Can ear piercing help migraines?

A daith piercing is a type of ear piercing that runs through the fold of cartilage that sits right above your ear canal. This piercing became popular as an alternative remedy for migraines through social media posts and comments on online migraine forums.

There have also been individual reports of people whose migraines improved after getting a daith piercing. One 2017 report showed that a middle-aged man who was unable to get relief from medications had a major reduction in migraines after getting a daith piercing.

Researchers believe that the piercing could potentially help because this area of your ear is connected to the vagus nerve, which carries pain signals to your brain, says Fayyaz Ahmed, MD, a neurologist and honorary professor at Hull York Medical School. 

Early studies have found that you can stimulate your own vagus nerve using a handheld device to send an electrical pulse into the side of your neck. This method may help treat migraines, but there's no evidence that a daith piercing can have the same effect.

Getting a daith piercing in a specific pressure point could theoretically help migraines by continuously stimulating your vagus nerve - but it would require an extremely precise placement of the piercing. 

The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) states that a piercing practitioner who isn't trained in acupuncture probably wouldn't be able to properly place the daith piercing. And even if the piercing is precise, there's no guarantee that it would offer relief. 

In addition, because daith piercings carry a high risk of infection, AMF says that it's likely not worth the gamble to try out this natural remedy.

Natural remedies for migraines 

There are several natural remedies that are proven to help treat migraines, Ahmed says. You should still check in with your doctor before trying these remedies. 

Natural treatments that can be effective include: 

  • Acupuncture uses needles to pierce specific areas of your body to treat pain. Studies show that acupuncture may help you have fewer migraines. A 2016 review of 22 studies found that three months of acupuncture treatment cut the number of migraines cut in half for 57% of participants.

  • Acupressure involves using your fingers to press into and stimulate certain pressure points on your body. Certain pressure points on your hands and neck can help relieve the pain from migraines - you can find a more in-depth guide for how to use acupressure on yourself here.

  • Certain vitamins and minerals may also help to treat migraine pain. One early study found that taking 400mg of the B vitamin riboflavin daily helped cut down the number of migraines patients experienced. A daily dose of 400 to 500mg of magnesium can also help prevent migraines, according to the AMF. 

Medications to treat migraines 

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to help treat migraines. In general, there are two types of medications for migraines - medications you take when a migraine strikes and everyday medications to prevent migraines, Ahmed says.

When a migraine starts, you can take "basic painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or a specific treatment like triptans that work on a chemical called serotonin," Ahmed says. In some cases, these methods may not be enough to control your pain and it may be helpful to visit your doctor to determine if other medications are necessary.

To prevent migraines, a doctor may prescribe medications including:

  • Beta blockers like propranolol and metoprolol

  • Anticonvulsants like topiramate (Topamax) and divalproex (Depakote)

  • Antidepressants like venlafaxine (Effexor) and amitriptyline (Elavil)

  • asCGRP inhibitors like Aimovig Emgality, or Ubrelvy

 

You might also want to consider botox injections for migraines. Botox is a toxin that can stop your nerve endings from releasing pain signals when it's injected into your skin. 

"Botox injections given every three months to prevent chronic migraine has become very popular," Ahmed says. So far, studies suggest that Botox can significantly reduce migraines and may work as well as preventive medications like topiramate.  

Insider's takeaway

People have reported that getting a daith piercing has helped treat their migraines, but so far there is no robust scientific evidence to back up these claims. 

Overall, getting a daith piercing may not be worth the pain and risk of infection, as there are several natural remedies for migraine like acupuncture that have more evidence behind them. If you want to try an alternative migraine treatment, talk to your doctor about finding the right option for you.

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