Note: This blog was originally posted on my former acupuncture blog, but because I am still seeing this all the time on social media: I feel the need to post it again as my views have not changed.
Normally I try to keep my blog posts very positive, but I have to say something about this issue. Over the past few weeks I have seen a photo shared over and over again on friend's feeds of a Daith Piercing on a woman's ear touting relief from migraines. Today alone I saw it on my feed four times and even a local news station is covering it now. Here is a link to one of the articles I've seen floating around Facebook and other social media sites: https://drupalsites.purchase.edu/journalism/index.php?q=node/49 (note: article has been removed from this website...this blog was originally posted in 2015. I am still looking for an archived copy to link.)
I feel like as a health care provider trained in auriculotherapy, both ear acupressure and acupuncture I needed to offer my $0.02 for the integrity of the medicine I hold very dear.
Most people who have seen me as a provider or checked out my Instagram know how much I enjoy utilizing the microsystem of the ear. It is almost magical how using the ear points can release those happy little neurotransmitters. It is a clinically proven system that has helped millions of people around the world.
While I am in no way against piercings or using the ear for other benefits rather than looks (I even have Swavorski EarSeeds on my own ears for stress relief at this very moment!) I am incredibly skeptical of this so called "alternative treatment" for migraines. There are many reasons for this. The first is the lack of research on the topic.
There are no studies cited and no "proof" offered other than the body piercers who claims it works and the other people who were interviewed for the article. This article claims that this piercing is the "same concept as acupuncture". That statement alone inflamed me more than almost anything else. Acupuncture is a field that requires many years of study to scratch the surface of and while I mean no disrespect to any body piercer, they are incredibly ill-qualified to state that something works like acupuncture.
My second issue comes down to point location. According to Wikipedia: "A Daith piercing is an ear piercing that passes through the ear's innermost cartilage fold, the crus of the helix." In Chinese Medicine and auriculotherapy this part of the ear corresponds to the large intestine, not the head. Unless it is a gut issue that is the root cause of your migraines then the chances of this working are pretty slim. There is actually no system of auriculotherapy that I or any of my colleagues that I spoke to are familiar with that has a point that could be even loosely related to a migraine. The only thing that may actually be at "work" here is that there is a potential that you are stimulating the vagus nerve, thereby causing a widespread response in the body, which is a whole other conversation that I'm happy to dive into some other time.
The third issue I have is with the type of metal used on the piercing. Depending on the type of headache the type of metal used makes a huge difference. I use silver mostly for headaches because of its calming effects. Gold and Surgical Steel both activate the tissue and can cause more harm than good.
Finally, scar tissue is something that one needs to be aware of with any body modification. Creating scar tissue blocks qi and blood flow and can once again create even bigger problems. I have found this a lot clinically with digestive issues and tongue piercings.
My advice to anyone seeking out an alternative treatment for their migraines to please go to someone who knows what they are doing. When I treat people for headaches with acupuncture I expect near immediate results and I get them. Same with EarSeeds. Nothing beats getting auriculotherapy or acupuncture at the right location for your unique presentation so please seek out a trained profession. I highly recommend visiting www.nccaom.org to find a qualified acupuncturist near you!
Ok I am finished on my soapbox for now.
Melissa West MAcOM, LE
P.S. My amazing colleague Doug recently posted on this topic if you are interested in another great perspective:
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Dr. Melissa is an Doctor of East Asian Medicine as well as a self proclaimed geek glam girl with a passion for gluten free food, self care rituals and beauty products. She is based in Petaluma, CA.