If you’ve ever experienced a migraine, you understand how intense and debilitating they can be. People will try all kinds of treatments, such as cold therapy, to find relief for their symptoms. Using ear piercings for migraine relief is a newer form of alternative treatment that some believe helps them manage their pain. But are ear piercings for migraines effective? Read on to learn about this form of acupuncture and whether it actively treats migraine attacks.
What Is a Migraine?
A migraine is more than just an intense headache, it’s a common neurological disease that results in a number of debilitating symptoms like a throbbing headache on one side of the head. These symptoms may last for hours or days and each person experiences them differently.1 About 12% of Americans regularly get migraines and research has shown that these attacks are the sixth most disabling disease in the world.1
Not everyone gets migraines; while it is tricky to predict exactly who will and won’t experience a throbbing, localized headache, there are a few factors that may make a person more susceptible:1
- Genetics. Migraines tend to run in families. Up to 80% of those who suffer from migraine attacks have an immediate relative, like a parent, who also gets them.1
- Gender. These intense headaches happen to women more than men, especially those between 15 and 55. This is likely due to the influence of hormones.1
- Stress level. High-stress individuals may experience migraines more frequently because stress can act as a trigger for these headache attacks.1
If you’re wondering if your headache is actually a migraine, you may need to consider if any other symptoms are present. Migraine headaches commonly appear only on one side of the head but may shift to the other side over time. Other symptoms of migraines include:1
- Nausea and vomiting.
- A sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells.
- Dizziness and blurred vision.
- Loss of appetite.
- Experiencing chills or feeing overly warm.
- Fatigue and inability to concentrate.
Ear Piercing for Migraines
Some individuals prefer non-traditional methods for treating their migraine pain. One of these methods involves an ear piercing called a daith piercing that is placed through the smallest fold of cartilage in the ear.2 This fold is located just above the ear canal, and can be difficult to pierce due to its location and small size. Some people report that having a daith piercing has resulted in migraine attacks that are less intense.2
The connection between ear piercings and migraines is rooted in acupuncture. Dr. Will Foster, a Knoxville, TN acupuncturist, has confirmed the existence of a pressure point that is associated with the digestive system in that part of the ear.2 Individuals who use acupuncture to treat their migraines regularly have this area targeted to relieve migraine headaches.3 Those who choose to get a daith piercing believe that the piercing’s constant compression of that pressure point may permanently relieve pain from migraines.4
Are Ear Piercings Effective in Treating Migraines?
Dr. Emad Estemalik, the Section Head for Headache and Facial Pain at the Center for Neurological Restoration at Cleveland Clinic, says that there is no medical research that supports the claim that a daith piercing actually gets rid of a migraine.3 Even if a person swears that the piercing is helpful, Dr. Estemalik believes that a placebo effect is likely at work.3
Dr. Estemalik believe that there is no scientific evidence or clinical trial results that support ear piercings as a solution to migraines.3 He adds that “receiving a piercing in that area will not alter the pain pathway of the migraine.”3
This statement is backed up by Dr. Kevin Weber, a neurologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who states that there haven’t been any randomized, controlled clinical trials to prove if a daith piercing actually helps.4
How to Manage Migraine Pain
While migraine headaches cannot be cured, they can be effectively managed. There are two main treatment approaches that involve medication. The first is called abortive, or acute, where medication is taken at the first sign of a migraine, while the pain is mild.1 This method functions by helping to stop or decrease migraine symptoms so that you can get on with your day without being completely incapacitated. The other type of treatment is referred to as preventative; these drugs are usually prescribed when migraines are severe, frequently occurring, and significantly interfere with daily life.1
Many individuals find that over-the-counter medications are effective for managing mild to moderate migraines and their symptoms. Excedrin® Migraine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating these headaches.1 In clinical studies, patients experiencing moderate to severe migraines found effective relief from their symptoms with just one dose. This acute pain management drug contains acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine.
Treating migraines can take some trial and error as you find the solution that works the best for you and your symptoms. Ear piercing for migraine relief may sound like a great way to permanently relief your headaches, but it is scientifically unfounded. You may find that you are best able to manage your pain with clinically proven medication.