Daith Piercings as Migraine Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on October 04, 2022
4 min read

Could a trip to the piercing studio be a quick fix for your migraine pain? You may have seen claims online that these ear piercings treat migraines, cluster headaches, or other chronic headaches, but what’s the real story?

Daith piercings are a puncture through the tough, innermost fold of cartilage at the entrance of your ear canal. It’s a small, curved piece of flesh, and it’s difficult to pierce. You wear an earring through the hole. You can get daith piercings on one or both ears.

Daith piercings have become increasingly popular in the last 20 years. One reason may be claims that these piercings can treat migraine. People may see daith piercings as an alternative to medication for migraine pain.

How could a daith piercing relieve headache pain? One theory is that the piercing affects a branch of your vagus nerve, which runs from your brain down into your body. The constant pressure of the earring on this one spot is supposed to work like acupuncture to block pain receptors in your body.

Acupuncture is sometimes used as a migraine treatment, and therapy may include your therapist pressing on a tiny spot on your ear near the place where daith piercings are done. However, there’s no way to be sure that your piercing is made on that exact spot.

Daith piercings are actually about 1 centimeter away from the spot where acupuncture treatments are done. There’s no proof that daith piercings affect your pain receptors or reduce migraine pain. In fact, the piercing may damage the spot where acupuncture would be performed to stimulate, not poke through, this pressure point.

Some experts believe that any migraine pain relief you could experience after daith piercing may be due to the placebo effect. That’s when you sense a health benefit from any treatment because you think that it will work. It feels like it works because you believe it will. Certain genes may be linked to a higher placebo response in some people. Research also shows that some people can have a placebo response even when they know a treatment is fake.

In short, doctors who work with migraine and other headache disorders don’t recommend daith piercings as a treatment. They could even be risky.

More than one-third of people who get daith piercings have complications like infections later on. Serious infections like cellulitis or blood infections like HIV, hepatitis B or C, and tetanus are possible. You can also have skin reactions like dermatitis, allergic reactions, or keloid scars, which are tissue growths that can get quite large.

If you decide to get one just to try it, or because you like the way they look, do it as safely as you can.

Find a piercing professional to get daith or any type of body piercing. Look for someone who’s licensed, although each state has its own laws about who can pierce ears. Make sure you trust your piercer and feel confident about the process before you get started. Let your doctor know you’re thinking about a daith piercing so you can go over any potential health risks.

Any piercing studio should be clean, ventilated, and well lit, with a separate room for piercings. It should have a sink for the piercer to wash their hands before and after the procedure, and liquid soap and paper towels nearby, not reusable cloth towels. All equipment needs to be new or properly sterilized and always in unopened sterile packaging. Don’t get a piercing in someone’s home or a public bathroom.

Before you get a daith piercing, a professional piercer should do the following:

  • Go over the procedure with you step by step
  • Select the appropriate jewelry for this piercing
  • Discuss possible risks and complications
  • Review what to expect as your piercing heals
  • Give you verbal and written aftercare instructions

It’s important to care for your piercing afterward to prevent infections:

  • Always wash your hands well before you touch your piercing or jewelry.
  • Leave the earring in for up to 8 weeks, even when you shower or sleep. This keeps the hole open.
  • Wash your ear regularly with soap and water.
  • Twist or jiggle the earring a little daily to keep the hole open.
  • Twice daily, dab a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol on the piercing.

If you notice that your new piercing hurts, looks red or puffy, or starts to ooze or drip a yellowish liquid, call your doctor. These are signs of an infection. You may need antibiotics to treat it.