There's a common belief that daith piercings, a type of ear cartilage piercing, can help treat or prevent severe headaches and migraines. At our dedicated piercing studio in Stafford, we regularly get customers asking about daith piercings as a migraine treatment.
Unfortunately, as much as we'd like it to be true, there's currently no scientific evidence that daith piercings (or any piercing) have medical benefits beyond a feel-good endorphin rush and making you look even cooler than you already do.
The history of this claim is fascinating, however, so we've put together this article to break it down, explore why daiths became a popular 'treatment' for migraines, and bust this myth wide open.
What is a migraine?
Migraines are debilitating headaches often accompanied by symptoms such as severe pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. There are many different kinds of migraines, such as ocular migraines, cluster migraines, and 'aura' migraines, which appear without pain but come with alternative symptoms such as temporary blindness.
According to The Migraine Trust, around 10 million adults in the UK (between 15% and 23% of the adult population) experience migraines. Sufferers often struggle to complete basic daily tasks during flare-ups due to the severity of their migraines.
Migraines are not just headaches! They can be extremely debilitating and disruptive to a person's life. This, combined with the lack of knowledge about what causes migraines, has led many to seek alternative treatments when conventional medicine hasn't worked.
What is auriculotherapy?
One such alternative 'treatment' for migraines is auriculotherapy, a pseudoscience (a science which has no scientific research backing it) created in the 1950s by French neurologist Paul Nogier.
Auriculotherapy is based on the belief that the human ear represents a microsystem of the entire body, and that you can treat physical or mental conditions by manipulating the auricular (the outer portion of the ear) in certain ways. If it sounds a bit unbelievable, that's because it is!
Nogier's method involved overlaying an image of a human foetus onto an ear and mapping the areas that 'corresponded' based on his method. He must have been having a slow day at the office. While this theory might sound intriguing, there's no proof or evidence to support any of Nogier's claims.
Science-y bit incoming:
A controlled crossover study of 36 patients failed to find any significant difference between stimulation of auriculotherapy points and control points. Using the McGill Pain Questionnaire, pain was not reduced at the auriculotherapy points compared to the controls. This led researchers to conclude that any pain relief reported by patients was likely due to the placebo effect. Additionally, some patients even reported new pain in unrelated parts of their bodies during electrical stimulation, reinforcing the placebo effect's power and potentially contributing to the persistence of belief in auriculotherapy [source].
Despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting auriculotherapy, some individuals have turned to daith piercings as a supposed cure for migraines and headaches.
However, when customers ask us about daith piercings and migraines, we always make sure to emphasise that daith piercings probably won't help, and that people and piercers who claim they do are essentially following an outdated pseudoscience and spreading misinformation.
Why do some piercers say daith piercings cure migraines?
Piercers are just as susceptible to misinformation as everyone else! There are many spiritual piercers who advocate for alternative medicine such as reflexology and acupuncture, and while they have a right to their beliefs, we believe that they shouldn't recommend unproven treatments to clients or misrepresent what piercings can do based on their own beliefs.
Piercers who make these claims are not acting ethically, as they are charging for a service that has not been scientifically proven to work. They often charge more than normal for these piercings, sometimes more than twice what they would charge for normal daith piercings.
At best, these piercers are misinformed and misinforming others. At worst, they're scamming people who suffer from a medical condition, giving them false hope, and straight-up lying simply to make a quick buck.
Why do some people say it worked for them?
There are many people who say that getting a daith piercing stopped their migraines, and that's great! However, this can usually be attributed to the placebo effect rather than the piercing itself.
The placebo effect occurs when a person believes so strongly in a particular treatment that they experience an improvement in their condition after receiving a treatment that has no actual therapeutic effect.
The placebo effect is a testament to the mind's ability to influence the body's perception of pain and discomfort, but unfortunately, the improvements are often short-lived.
Basically, people's belief in daith piercings as a migraine cure may lead them to experience relief simply because they expect it to work. The power of positive thinking, not the power of piercings...
In summary, daith piercings should not be considered a legitimate or scientifically proven treatment for migraines, and any reputable piercer will tell you the same thing. The only proven benefit to getting a daith piercing is that they look awesome!
The concept of daith piercings helping with migraines is rooted in pseudoscience from the past and has repeatedly failed to stand up to scrutiny. Migraine sufferers should be cautious when considering alternative therapies, including piercing and acupuncture, and you should always talk to your doctor beforehand, as they're best placed to offer actual, evidence-based guidance.