What is a migraine piercing?

A daith piercing is a type of ear piercing where an earring goes through a piece of cartilage in the outer ear. Specifically, the earring goes through the firm piece of cartilage called the helix just above your ear canal.

Daith piercings are commonly small, looped earrings, but some people gets studs. The procedure itself may be painful.

Recently daith piercings have grown in popularity because people who get migraines have reported that these piercings have helped prevent these intense headaches. Migraines can cause a variety of painful symptoms, including:

  • severe pain on one side of the head
  • increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • nausea
  • pulsing or throbbing pain
  • vomiting

Although some people believe a daith piercing has helped prevent or reduce the frequency of migraines, the jury is still out. That’s because there’s not yet any scientific research confirming that daith piercings really do work. They might help, but they might also be harmful.

There are many pressure points in the ear. By stimulating certain points, people with migraines attempt to get some headache relief.

“The idea behind daith piercings is probably similar to the effect of acupuncture,” says Dr. Alexander Mauskop, the director and founder of the New York Headache Center. “Acupuncture does help headaches when certified acupuncturists stick needles into the ear.”

Learn more about pressure points and migraine relief »

But Dr. Mauskop has cautioned his patients against getting daith piercings.

“The principle is solid,” he says, “but the problem is, you’re making a hole in the cartilage, creating a risk of infection. And in rare cases people have lost their ears because of infection.”

“Of course people pierce all kinds of parts and it’s OK,” Dr. Mauskop says. “But I’m reluctant to recommend it, especially because there’s no scientific data or clinical trials proving that it really works.”

It’s possible that people believe their daith piercings are working to prevent migraines, which itself can help improve their condition. This is known as the placebo effect.

“Placebo is always a part of all the treatments, whether it’s medications, acupuncture, or anything else,” Dr. Mauskop explains. “Not to say that’s a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with placebo if it helps someone, as long as it’s a simple, safe, and inexpensive procedure. But I would rather wait for scientific proof before recommending daith piercing.”

Learn more about migraine treatments »

Another headache specialist, Dr. Emad Estemalik of the Cleveland Clinic, has talked about daith piercings and migraines. He also suggests that a possible placebo effect might be at work, and expresses doubt about an actual scientific connection.

“Receiving a piercing in that area will not alter the pain pathway of migraine,” Dr. Estemalik says. “The danger of infection from a piercing of this site strongly outweighs any unproven benefit, especially because these procedures are conducted at tattoo parlors where proper sterility may be a question.”

Dr. Mauskop echoes this feeling about daith piercings. “I’m a bit reluctant about any permanent procedures that put a foreign object in the ear, especially if you could use acupuncture in the ear instead,” Dr. Mauskop says. “So it’s not worth the risk, considering migraine is not a lifelong disease or may go away after a few years. Even if it was effective for a few years, I’m a bit reluctant especially because there’s no scientific data or clinical trials proving that daith piercings really work.”

Because migraines can be extremely painful and interfere with everyday life, people are often willing to try different things. But it’s best to discuss any procedure or at-home remedy with your doctor before trying it. If you’re looking for an alternative way to find relief from a migraine, try these 10 natural remedies to reduce migraine symptoms.