Thursday, November 19, 2015

Daith piercings for migraines?

Lately there's been a lot of buzz on the internet regarding Daith piercings as a cure for migraines.1 A "Daith" piercing bores a hole through the ear's innermost cartilage fold.2

Why would a piercing in the ear affect migraines? The man who pioneered auricular (ear) acupuncture, Paul Nogier, was a French neurologist. A lot of his patients were coming to him with a scar on their ears in a particular place. When asked they told him they had visited a lay healer who burned that point on their ears to cure them of sciatica. In an "ah ha" moment, he realized the entire body was connected to the ear.

Anyone who's had acupuncture at our clinic knows we use acupuncture points in the ears a lot. I call the ears the "keyboard to the brain". Using them, I can affect hormones, the nervous system, and the way the body processes pain. Ear acupuncture is one way among many that I, as an acupuncturist, have of encouraging your body to use its resources differently.

There are no recognized acupuncture points at the exit and entry points of the Daith piercing. It's actually closest to the "External Genitals" point. (Yes, I know, "eek!") My only theory for why this affects pain in the head is that a piercing here would redirect excess Qi from the top of the head to the root of the pelvis. Contrary to what you might have read on the internet, it's at least 1 cm away from "Point Zero" that regulates homeostasis in the body.

My opinion on the Daith piercing is that it might very well help some people. I'm willing to bet, however, that it doesn't help everyone. It's likely not a permanent solution and comes with some significant risks.

This piercing is very painful and takes between 3-6 months to heal. Extra care must be taken to avoid infection in the cartilage. If nickel allergies or sensitivities are an issue for you, a Daith piercing may cause more problems than it solves. A proper Daith piercing requires knowledge of advanced techniques by the practitioner. I would insist upon implant grade material for any piercing of this type.

A Daith piercing could theoretically stimulate the points so strongly and actively, the nervous system would be re-trained to accept a new pattern. For some people this new pattern might stick and they'll be "cured". For some folks, I suspect as soon as the piercing heals, their migraines will return. I'm sure there are migraine sufferers who have noticed no improvement or just feel it's so uncomfortable it keeps them from focusing on their other pains.

My concern with using piercings for relief is that they probably become "background noise". Just like repeatedly telling my kids to "pick up your socks!", the body eventually tunes this stimulus out. Any point that's overused will lose its effect. I have a piercing at the "eye" point in my ears, but I don't notice that I have any greater visual acuity because of it. An additional concern is that a piercing of this magnitude could well destroy the acupuncture points that we're trying to effect.

When I treat you with acupuncture, I start out with a hypothesis of what's causing your problem. Migraines have a number of different causes from a Chinese Medical perspective. You might have Liver Yang Rising, Yin Deficiency, Qi and Blood Deficiency, Phlegm Turbidity, or Fire rising in the Gallbladder Channel to name a few. I usually select points on the ears and the body to set a new pattern for your body to follow. I use points in the ears to calm down the parts of the brain that process pain. I use body points to set a strategy for reversing the negative pattern.

Sometimes I can't find any reactive points in the ears, so I have to rethink my strategy. For whatever reason, some folks are just not good candidates for ear acupuncture. There's no harm in putting needles there, but we're not going to have a powerful effect. Other patients have fantastic results with ear acupuncture. For these folks, I send them home with retention needles that are very much like a mini-piercing.

So, in short: do your research and try acupuncture first!

1 -Could a daith piercing solve your migraine problem ...
   -Daith Piercing: Migraine Cure?


Left Hand Community Acupuncture is located in the heart of Old Town Lafayette 
at the corner of Simpson St. and Michigan Ave. LHCA offers an affordable sliding 
scale of $25-$55. We do not ask for proof of income. You decide what you feel is 
fair to you and fair to us. We treat patients in a relaxed, group setting that promotes 
an atmosphere of healing. Caroline Adams is a Licensed 
Acupuncturist and nationally board certified. Acupuncture can help with a wide range of health 
issues including pain, stress, insomnia, arthritis, allergies, depression, headaches, 
fatigue, cold and flu, digestive issues, PMS, infertility and many other health concerns.



  1. I don’t think that daith piercings for migraines are effective in any ways. Instead of that you must try acupuncture therapy that is 100% effective. I would like to get the migraine acupuncture in Mississauga clinic as there are various professional acupuncturists over there.

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