To pierce or not to pierce (migraine help)

***This blog post is my personal experience with using an earlobe piercing to alleviate migraine pain and to reduce the overall number of headaches I get.  This is not to be taken as a substitute for medical advice.  I have had extensive testing in the past to verify that my headaches are migraines and not the result of brain tumor or other disease.  If you experience pain and have not had a diagnosis of migraine or other non-dangerous headache from a physician, please seek medical help.***

Note:  I do NOT have a Daith piercing.  This blog post is not about Daith piercings.

This whole thing started when a friend asked me if I’d ever considered a Daith piercing for my migraines.  There had been stories floating around on-line that people who got the Daith piercing for cosmetic reasons were experiencing a reduction in the number of migraines they experienced.  I searched on-line, my husband searched on-line, but we couldn’t find any reliable links and not much else beyond a posting on snopes.com discounting the whole thing.  So I put the idea on a back burner and went on with life.

Then came the five day migraine streak that I couldn’t break.  It was probably set off by a sudden weather change here in Utah. I was miserable.  I was at the maximum for triptans I could take without cardiac risk, Ibuprofen and Aleve weren’t even taking the edge off anymore, and I’d tried every home remedy I knew of.  I decided to reinvestigate piercings.

Fifteen years ago, I’d studied a small amount of traditional Chinese medicine including  acupressure/acupuncture points in school and while preparing for my national certification exams in massage therapy.  I’d used some acupressure points on my dogs over the years for pain and anxiety relief so I knew they were effective (dogs can’t really experience much in the way of placebo effect – but their people can in reading the dog’s reactions to treatment).

I looked up charts for the ear and couldn’t find anything in the area where people get Daith piercings except Point Zero and most Daith piercings aren’t close to that exact point.  Daith piercings, because they go through hard cartilage, can be difficult to heal and quite painful to have done. I don’t like pain and I wasn’t ready to do something that drastic based on internet rumors.

What I did find though, were several points high up on the fleshy earlobe that held possibilities.

 

ear 1

See how the points for Temples, Forehead, Occiput, Master Shoulder, TMJ, and Jaw and Teeth are all kind of together in the same general area?  I figured that area would be a good place to explore.  And worse case scenario, since that part of the ear is very fleshy, any failed piercing would heal up with a minimum of fuss.

On day four of my migraine streak, I started exploring these points with my fingertips, the tips of pens, etc. to see if I could get any relief.  There was one area that when I really worked at it with my fingernail, I could feel my pain change from full-on migraine misery to that weird post-migraine hangover feeling.  Not complete relief but almost an energetic void where the migraine was.  It’s hard to explain but anyone who’s had a migraine knows what the next day hangover feels like and that’s the closest comparison I have.

By day five at three in the afternoon, I was desperate.  I figured I had three options. 1) Try going to the emergency room, which would send my anxiety through the roof and I’d probably have a rebound migraine the next day from narcotics (narcotics would have been the only option left open to me since I was maxed out on triptans already); 2) put my head through the nearest wall (I did that once when I was 19 and on a migraine streak – it didn’t help); or 3) try a piercing.

I picked up my daughter after school and we headed to the most reputable piercing studio in the area, Koi.  I worked with Patrick, who is their most experienced person.  I explained to him what I was trying to do and where the point was that I had been pressing to get some relief.  He used a threader to help pinpoint the best spot before piercing.  The area I had been working with my fingernail was pretty large and we needed to narrow it down to the point that would be as large as a needle.  Using the earring threader to press, we found the best spot.  When he pressed it with significant pressure, I could feel the pain slowly drain out of my head. It was a very strange feeling.  He marked the spots with a pen. He pierced the non-migraine side first (my right ear).  The he did my left ear, which was the side with the migraine.  My daughter was with me and watched and she said that when the needle went through my left earlobe, the entire left side of my head, face, ear, and neck, went bright red.  It was like I was split down the middle; one side red, one side normal.  And my brain lit up light a Christmas tree.  We went over aftercare, etc. and I drove home.  About 45 minutes after my ear was pierced, the migraine had completely drained out of my head and I was left with that slightly lightheaded migraine hangover.  I woke up the next day with no pain.

I’m a little over two weeks into the minimal 6 week healing period now.  The total healing period for a lobe piercing is about 6 months.

I’ve had several headaches since then that bordered on migraine territory but I’ve been able to get rid of them with just the normal dose of ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medication.  I haven’t taken any triptans since the piercing.  I haven’t made any other dietary or lifestyle changes.  There was one day when I had a major migraine aura and my left ear turned bright red but I never got the actual migraine and the aura and redness subsided within a few hours.

 

Here are photos of my piercing (left lobe).  Please excuse the acne, I’m having a seasonal change breakout right now. 🙂

The new piercing is the green tiny earring.  The other piercing I’ve had since I was 16.

If you compare the photo to the chart, my ideal spot ended up being just between the acupuncture point for Occiput and TMJ. It’s probably a good spot for me because most of my migraines tend to start in my occiput area and settle behind my eye and ear on the same side.

Although it’s still early, considering how bizarre the weather has been, that Thanksgiving was last week and I was eating food that would normally have me miserable for days with headaches, and my stress has been off the charts; my headaches have been minimal to non-existent.

I’m calling this a success!

 


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