Can ear piercings relieve migraines?

Can ear piercings relieve migraine pain?

More than 60 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraine pain, two-thirds of which are women.

Many people will do whatever it takes to rid themselves of the pain, including piercing their daith.

"I've heard people say they could feel [the pressure] just leave their body as soon as they got that piercing and I'm just hoping for the best," said Jennifer Marcial, who has suffered from migraines since the birth of her daughter. 

"That was 8 years ago, so I've been suffering for 8 years," said Marcial, 33. "The longest one I've had was three weeks ....and I was actually hospitalized."

Marcial allowed us to watch on as she got her daith piercing at Aces in Denton.

"We've had a lot of customers come in specifically requesting that piercing," said body piercer Dorian Tellez. "It's rare if a day goes by that I don't do at least one."

Daith piercing punctures the ear's innermost cartilage fold.

"It's kind of a hard piercing to notice because it's sort of tucked up in the ear," said Aces owner Becky Murrill.  "Most of our customers have gotten back to us and said, 'Oh my gosh-- I haven't had a migraine in three weeks, and I was having one every couple of days!'"

This is familiar territory for Murrill, who battled migraines all her life. She said a piercing 11 years ago relieved her pain. While daith piercing isn't new-- it's gained recent popularity.

"All of the sudden this daith piercing hit the Internet and it seemed to be all over Facebook," said Murrill. "We were suddenly getting phone calls every day asking if we do this piercing."

Facebook is where nursing student Mikayla Anderson learned of daith piercing for migraines. After years of debilitating headaches, Anderson tried is as a last resort.

"A lot of my friends on Facebok were saying, 'Oh the daith piercing is awesome! It felt like a balloon popped inside my head, and all the pressure was just instantly relieved'-- and that was it for me; I had to at least try it," said Anderson, who paid $25 to get pierced at a tattoo shop in Stephenville.

Unfortunately, for her, it didn't work. In fact she said her migraines are worse now than ever before.

"They're a lot more intense-- to the point where I vomit and can't get out of bed," said Anderson who is now searching for a neurologist. 

There is an endless search for solutions when it comes to migraines -- from prescription medicine to botox injections, ear lobe stimulation, and essential oils. Back in the day, doctors would even recommend stapling part of the ear for relief.

For a long time, acupuncturists have pierced pressure points to treat headaches and migraines. To ancient herbalists who studied Eastern medicine, doing so balances the flow of energy in the body. In Western medicine, stimulating pressure points increases the flow of endorphins in your central nervous system which relieves pain.

"One treatment doesn't suit everybody," said Dr. Vivek Mehta, pain management specialist at Texas Health Arlington Memorial hospital. "It is still not a medical treatment."

In the late 90's to early 2000's, Dr. Mehta and colleagues tracked a small group of patients who pierced their daiths to manage migraines. They found those people experienced moderate relief for six months. After six months, the relief wasn't consistent-- but still was somewhat effective. Two years after the piercing, though, their findings suggested the piercing had become almost meaningless.

"I've had prescription medication, oils, old remedies like rubbing your temples, putting yourself in a dark room, closing your eyes, honestly nothing has helped," said Marcial, just before her piercing.

Two minutes after it was done, she described it: "As soon as you hear the crunch, the pressure in the back of my eyes just vanished. You can definitely tell a difference, I think."

Still, piercers and doctors caution that this does not work for everybody. It's no cure-all or migraine miracle.

"Even that moderate relief for a few months is quite meaningful," said Dr. Mehta, which is why doctors say there might actually be something to this. They just need further science-based studies conducted before they can recommend it as a medical treatment.

In Texas, you have to be at least 18 years old to get this piercing. Anyone under 18 needs parental consent.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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