Someone who suffers episodic or chronic migraines may be willing to try almost anything to make the pain go away and never come back. When medication or other options are not providing relief, a popular alternative for many people is the complementary medical practice of acupuncture or a treatment called daith piercings.
What are these treatments, how are they supposed to rid you of migraine pain and mitigate attacks, and how well do they work?
Acupuncture has been used for millennia. Developed in China, the practice has been studied and adopted in Europe and the United States as a complementary treatment for a host of physical and mental issues.
Acupuncture is performed by inserting one or more fine needles shallowly into the skin at so-called stimulation points on the body to balance its energies. Practitioners follow a map of regions of the body that shows where to place acupuncture needles to affect the specific issue.
For example, needles inserted into the skin of the arm may stimulate the nerves in such a way that the patient feels a change in another part of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is thought that stimulating the body’s energy at an acupuncture point releases the disruption in the flow of energy believed to be caused by a disease state.
Western medicine believes acupuncture treatments act through neurohormonal pathways. When the needle is placed in the skin, it stimulates a nerve. The nerve sends signals to the brain to release neural hormones such as beta-endorphins to increase the patient’s pain threshold in a particular area.
Another hypothesis of how acupuncture relieves pain and illness is that it reduces pro-inflammatory markers (proteins) within the body. Reducing the markers reduces inflammation, which then reduces pain. Furthermore, the treatment supposedly increases energy and stimulates the immune system, also helping decrease inflammation.
The effectiveness and use of acupuncture to relieve headache and migraine pain as well as a slew of other problems have been noted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Acupuncture should be received from a trained practitioner only. It is not considered a safe or appropriate treatment for those with pacemakers or bleeding disorders. Also, it may stimulate premature labor in some women.
Does Acupuncture Relieve Pain or Reduce Migraine Attacks?
There is clinical evidence that acupuncture is a safe alternative therapy for migraine prevention and treatment, although it may be more effective when used in conjunction with medication or other measures.
Controlled trials show that acupuncture seems to bring significant relief in comparison to no treatment or basic care. It appears to be at least as effective as prophylactic drugs while eliminating the occurrence of side effects common with such medications. When tested against a fake treatment meant to duplicate the feeling of acupuncture treatments, acupuncture came out ahead with relief not given by the fake method.
Many healthcare providers are favorable toward using acupuncture in conjunction with other therapies. Also, it is a cost-effective method for reducing migraine pain and occurrence. It can be an effective therapy to add to your migraine-fighting toolkit.
Defining Daith Piercings
The cartilaginous part of the outer ear that comprises the end of the fold near the crux of the helix (next to the ear hole) is called the daith, which rhymes with faith or doth depending on who is speaking. This inner fold of cartilage is pierced, and a small captive bead ring is placed in the hole.
Daith piercings for migraine relief began circulating in 2016. They seem to be considered a permanent form of acupuncture that purports to relieve and prevent migraines. The daith piercing allegedly coincides with an acupressure point linked to the digestive system.
There have been no clinical studies on the effectiveness of daith piercings and little evidence outside of anecdote to recommend it. However, it is reportedly no more painful than Botox injections, injectable triptans, nerve blocks, or acupuncture so it may be a relatively harmless alternative.
Unfortunately, there are several reports that relief is temporary or the piercing did not relieve migraines at all. For some, the procedure is quite painful and can remain so for several weeks after the piercing was performed. As always with any invasive procedure, infection is a risk. You should select a trained practitioner to perform the procedure.
How Does Daith Piercing Work?
Daith piercing is supposed to function the same way acupuncture is thought to work. If piercing the daith of the ear does indeed create the same release of neurochemicals as acupuncture might, then it could be an alternative or complement to other therapies, just as acupuncture is. Just be aware that any relief may be nothing more than a placebo effect. If you believe it works, you may achieve a modicum of relief.
If you are a fan of multiple piercings, then you may appreciate the procedure even if it doesn’t reduce your migraine pain or frequency. You can still place a small piece of jewelry there as decoration. If the piercing does relieve migraine pain so much the better.
As with any medical procedure, speak to your healthcare provider when considering daith piercings or acupuncture. Then select an experienced and reputable practitioner to provide the treatment.
Dr. Mark Khorsandi works at the Migraine Relief Center. They provide surgical treatments that reduce and eliminate pain for migraine sufferers.