Daith Piercings for Migraines

This particular blog is going to be a living document–I’m going to be coming back an updating it over time with my own experiences and some of the research for, neutral, and against so others can have a resource in making a decision if this might be a migraine mitigation or severity altering possibility for you. (*Contents of this post is not individual medical advice. It is my own anecdotal evidence and external links are provided for further educational reading.)

I have suffered migraines since I was in college. It took about 10-12 years (yes, years) to settle into a cocktail of medication management that worked for me. It got bad…in my late 20s/early 30s, I would get about 3 migraines a week. I take a daily meditation that’s secondary use had been shown to help prevent migraines (it’s primary use is a seizure medication). I also take a “rescue” medication that dissolves under my tongue at the onset of a migraine that usually knocks it out, but if needed, I can take a second dose 2 hours later. I rarely get migraines of that severity, but the downside is–two doses in 24-hrs is the max. Once I’ve taken it, I’m stuck in pain if that doesn’t shut it down.

I rarely get migraines that last beyond that point–and if I do, that’s when I’m in bed. Occasionally there were times when the pain was so bad that I would have to go to the emergency room, and they would do an IV with all kinds of goodies…but with the state of our healthcare system and wait times, I’d rather save my $350 emergency room insurance copay and call a mobile IV to get the same treatment without a wait and exposure to other illnesses at a fraction of the cost.

I’m also blessed that probably 90% of my migraines are functional…I don’t get auras or nausea. Beyond the excruciating pain, the most common symptom for me is sound sensitivity, but that’s something I’m easily able to control in my environment for the most part without too much interruption to life.

Knowing migraine triggers is a big thing–and mine are varied, took years to narrow down, and sometimes feels like a game of Whack-a-Mole to land on which triggers set off the landmine. Barometric pressure changes, sinus issues (I’ve had chronic sinus issues for years, so if I’m not feeling well and it hits my sinuses and isn’t resolved quickly…forget it, that sinus headache is headed for full-blown migraine), nitrates (I have found that I can have some, but haven’t found that magic threshold…basically no more than one meal in a 24 hour period–so if I have a hot dog for dinner, I can’t have lunch meat on a sandwich for lunch the next day), MSG (contrary to popular belief, this only affects 2-3% of the population…MSG gets an unnecessary bad wrap, but that’s another story for another day), white wine (which is interesting, because it’s usually red wine that is a migraine trigger for most…I handle red wine jusssttt finnneeee), and increased stress.

Is avoiding triggers a perfect science? No. We don’t live in a bubble. It doesn’t work that way, and since mine are food, environmental, and socioemotional, sometimes it’s just the perfect storm I can’t control. I am aware of my triggers in every day life, and in addition to medication, also ensure that I eat a vast and varied diet that supports my overall health and take some other supplements that help with muscle relaxation and recovery to give my body a fighting chance.

Now, back to the daith piercing. This had been recommended to me for years by people that had it done and swore it helped them, but the scientific evidence doesn’t really push in its favor (I’ll be linking more here soon about that). I’m not surprised, as this is not a medical treatment–with the type of holistic medicine that piercings fall into, while older than much of western medicine–it’s harder to place within the constructs of evidentiary studies.

The majority of what I read for years crossed the spectrum of “yes, in some cases people do see an improvement of frequency and intensity of migraines” to “it’s bullshit science.” One thing that recently came on my radar was the idea of daith piercings making migraines worse–this is something that I had not seen much on either in personal accounts or scholarly works, until I took a dive using biased search terms (purposely looking for negative outcomes–and I’ll link that here too). When I had asked my physician about it, she didn’t nix the idea, but she had the same on-the-fence feelings I started with…”well, maybe…”

Remember when I said that I’m functional with most of my migraines? Earlier this month I had a migraine that knocked me on my rear–literally. I was in bed for two and half days, maxed out all the medications I could take, got a mobile IV, and was still in excruciating pain with no relief. This is not a common migraine for me. I couldn’t pinpoint the trigger…I settled on it possibly being some dental work I had the day before it started jostling my head in just the right way to get my sinuses and everything irritated (sometimes you don’t get a perfect answer). My migraines have also increased in frequency and intensity over the last 6-9 months…I’m not sure if it’s the result of a good monsoon season or what, but the trend isn’t pretty and I’m not particularly interested in playing medication roulette again or increasing dosages because of the load it puts on my body.

After being not functional for three days, I decided that I really had nothing to lose in trying a daith piercing and made an appointment for the following weekend–and as added bonus I had a residual headache the ENTIRE week. I don’t even know how to put into words what it’s like to be in pain that you can’t make go away despite any effort for an extended period of time (and don’t come at me about living with chronic pain–I live with joint pain daily from an autoimmune condition, I’ve got the baseline of pain to start with).

The piercing itself hurt like hell–I’m not going to sugar coat that. The piercer that I saw at a reputable and recommended tattoo establishment was experienced and did an incredible job–she timed it well with some deep breathing so that even though it hurt a lot, that wave of pain was over quickly (the pain doesn’t last and it’s a fast process). It was pretty uncomfortable then when she put the earring in because that’s a little wiggly process and closing the hinges on it, but not intolerable. I didn’t check my watch, but I was about 10 minutes early for my appointment and am pretty sure I left just a few minutes after my appointment time–and that was with the piercer giving an apprentice a few tips and talking through things while she did my piercing (with my permission–I’m all about people learning!).

My only mistake was not eating enough before I went in. I had a full day up to that point and had eaten breakfast at like 6:30am and my appointment was 2:45pm and I hadn’t eaten anything since, so when I was in the grocery store immediately after, I could tell that I was a little spacy and definitely needed to get home quickly and get some food into me.

I had a little soreness that afternoon that a couple ibuprofen took care of and then I was fine, and haven’t taken anything since. The first night and the next morning it was a little sensitive when I cleaned it, but it doesn’t really bother me now to clean it. I’m a side sleeper and it took me a few nights to turn my head that way, but after the first couple, I think it was more fear than anything–the earring is tucked in well and doesn’t push on anything if you lay on your side–last night (3 days later) was the first night I slept on that side for any length of time and it felt okay.

I’m super skeptical when it comes to results, because of course I want this piercing to make a difference–so I keep looking at things like, “is this true or is this a placebo?” Either way, these are the changes I see at the 3 day point:

  • Immediate headache relief. Remember I said going into the appointment I had a residual headache from my last migraine that I couldn’t shake? Within 30 minutes (I think it was less, but we’ll say 30 minutes to be conservative), I was headache free and it didn’t return. Now, again…this is one of those instances where I have to wonder is it the piercing, or the placebo of “hey, you just had a painful experience from the piercing so it distracted you from the pain of the headache.”
  • Muscle relaxation. I started to notice it a bit on Sunday evening, but even more dramatically on Monday that the muscles on left side of my face, head, neck, and shoulders (I was pierced on the left) are significantly more relaxed. For YEARS I’ve struggled with extremely tight muscles in my neck and shoulders–like I can get a massage and 10 minutes later you can bounce a quarter off my scalenes and levators. If you run your hand around my neck right now, it’s bizarre–my right side is tight like usual and the muscles on the left are not constricted. (Not in a scary something’s wrong palsy way–I am able to move, use, tighten, and relax all of those muscles properly)

I’m definitely interested to see what happens as time goes on, which is why I’ll continue to update this page with progress and my experiences. A daith piercing can take 4-6 months to completely heal, and some people to don’t see results/maximum results until that point. I only got one side pierced, some people choose to get both–and honestly, if the muscle relaxation appears to be a long term thing after a few months, I will absolutely go back and get the other side done because that muscle tension can contribute to migraines due to stress–if that’s something I can mitigate, I’m here for it!

I’ll also share this page again once I add the links with outside research and information. Please feel free to comment on this post and share your experiences with daith piercings–you might just help someone else make the choice for themselves!

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