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August 22, 2018

The Monthly Migraine: My 'migraine' piercing

The pointed truth about a popular potential treatment

Health Stories Migraines
08212018_monthly_migraine Photo courtesy/Lindsay Patton-Carson

The author's daith piercing. It passes through the ear's innermost cartilage fold, the crus of the helix. The piercing is said by some to help alleviate migraines, but it didn't help in her case.

The past year has been so bad migraine-wise, I did something completely out of character: I got a piercing with zero scientific backing because I heard it can help migraines.

I am naturally skeptical about every single thing, which is why I surprised myself with this decision. But it was a last-ditch and relatively cheap “remedy” to try out. I went in cautiously optimistic and being OK with the decision because I really like the piercing. If it helped, great! If not, I have a piercing that is unique.

I had seen buzz about this piercing on the Internet for a couple of years. I had been considering it, but my migraines weren’t as frequent at the time. Now that they’ve become worse – not just in frequency, but in length of time – I decided to just go for it, by myself, on a whim. It’s been about four months since my trip, and this is what I’ve learned from the experience.


Like many people, I get nervous around needles, despite having two tattoos and 11 piercings – two of which I pierced myself. (Never do this.) I went to Northern Liberty Tattoo and Piercings, which was a wonderful experience. The piercer was calm and comforting, which made the process easier, especially when you’re about to shove a needle into your body.

Due to its placement, the daith is one of the most challenging piercings. The needle has a lot of ear cartilage to go through, which can prolong the healing process. Knowing this, I was worried about the pain in comparison to my fleshy earlobes.

The piercer’s “bedside manner,” if you will, was extremely professional and thoughtful. He walked me through every step, told me what to expect and encouraged me to take deep yoga breaths, which added to my positive experience. Focusing on my slowed, deep breathing helped calm my nerves and tolerate the minimal pain. Honestly, the “crack!” the needle made going into my cartilage was worse – to me – than the sensation. The process didn’t take long and after, I experienced this pleasant adrenaline high where I felt happy, upbeat and pain-free. It was a nice side effect I wasn’t expecting.


The biggest reason this piercing isn’t more popular is the high risk of infection. And, yep, I got an infection. The reason is because there are so many nooks and crannies within that part of the ear. It’s a lot easier to get bacteria trapped in the daith than many other piercings. You must clean the pierced area every day with a saline solution, clean it after showering, wash your pillows frequently and avoid wearing unsanitized headphones.

I did some of these things. I know it’s my own damn fault, but listen, there are some parts of me that are incredibly lazy and can’t be bothered to do menial tasks. It’s fine, I accept this about myself and know I will always face the consequences.

I did get it to clear up eventually, but I had to deal with a week-long ear infection and take antibiotics for that to happen. The ear infection was because – once again – I didn’t sanitize my ear buds and shoved them into my ear canal too far. Due to the sensitive nature of the piercing and the infection I had going on, the ear infection was bound to happen. This is something a grown-ass woman should know better about, but remember, I told you I’m kind of lazy at some things.

Save for the infection, the pain was not bad after the piercing. There was tenderness, but nothing bothersome or excruciating. Unlike my two other cartilage piercings, I could sleep without pain because most of my outer ear protects the piercing. The infection was annoying, but I take responsibility for that and am telling you right now: do not be like me, OK?



I’m still getting migraines at the same frequency, even four months after the piercing and one month after the infection cleared up. There was a point in May – a month after my piercing parlor visit – where I had 14 consecutive migraine days in a row and had to make an emergency doctor’s appointment. My mom, on the other hand, got a daith piercing a week after I did and says it has worked wonders. Like me, she gets chronic migraines and they have only gotten worse as she has gotten older. Also like me, she’s become so hopeless with this illness that she’s willing to try any option to get her migraine frequency reduced.

After talking to a few people, my belief is the piercing is more of a placebo effect than anything. For some, the placebo effect is powerful and helpful. For me, it’s not… OK, except for the one time I drank ginger beer thinking it had alcohol in it and got “drunk.” (A favorite family story, might I add.)

My Dana Scully-way of looking at the world prevented my mind from a potentially positive placebo experience. It was slightly disappointing to have this outcome, but something I went in prepared for. I wasn’t hoping for a cure, so my mind was not in a place to will the piercing to “work.”

Am I bummed? Not really. Do I regret it? Nope. Overall, I enjoy the piercing, even going through an infection with it. I think piercings are a fascinating way to express our individuality, which is why I have 11 of them. Even though my daith didn’t do what I was hoping for, it’s still a unique way to express my style and personality. #NoRegrets

The Monthly Migraine is a series dedicated to migraine awareness and support. If you suffer from chronic migraines, you are not alone and we hope to amplify your voice through these pieces.

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