My shop, Grim City Tattoo Club, does a weekly piercing special. It started years ago, back when things were slow, as a way to get our name out and attract clients. Interest in our piercing special grew faster and larger than we ever anticipated. Now, we average 50-100 piercings every Sunday with only three piercers on staff. In recent months, more and more people have been asking for the “migraine piercing” or the “anxiety piercing”, and each time we tell them the same disclaimer:
“There is no scientific data proving that the piercing will do anything for your migraines or anxiety. If you want to get the piercing and take the chance that may or may not work, that’s fine; but we do not guarantee you’ll have any relief.”
What is the Daith Piercing?
Pronounced day-th, this piercing is located on the inner cartilage fold above the ear drum. The daith is typically pierced with a 16g or 14g needle. People who receive this piercing typically wear a curved barbell or CBR (captive ball ring) during the healing process.
The “Science” Behind the Claim
Acupressure or acupuncture restores health and balance to the body's channels of energy, and regulates opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy).
By stimulating the following three points on the ear, you can activate the nervous system and induce the body’s relaxation response:
1. Shenmen — stress reducing
2. Point Zero — calming and grounding
3. Tranquilizer Point — induces a relaxation response
If you’re a believer in Eastern medicine, you may already know that Dr. Paul Nogier of France is widely recognized as the father of modern ear acupressure and acupuncture. Nogier pioneered auriculotherapy and the concept of homunculus, or “the little man,” which is the representation and anatomical correlation of the inverted fetus inside the ear. In other words, a homunculus is a very tiny representation of an entire human being. Your ear represents your entire body, upside-down, in a birthing position.
The daith is located at Point Zero, the centre of your ear. Therefore, using Nogier’s theory, the daith is the centre of your body. When stimulated, it brings the body back to a balanced and grounded state. In theory, stimulating Point Zero could work as an anxiety and migraine treatment, and the belief is that since the daith piercing can be kept in permanently, it can keep migraines and anxiety at bay, or at least reduce them.
Many doctors and believers in Western medicine find it hard to believe that this kind of remedy is possible or even that these meridians exist. They attribute any results to other factors, such as reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, or stimulation of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
Despite counter-explanations and skepticism, the sheer number of people who say that the piercing actually works to relieve or reduce their migraines and anxiety levels lends credibility to the theory. A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine states, “Stimulation of a reflex point in the ear can relieve symptoms of distant pathology with a reliable duration.”
A Chinese study that used ear acupressure/acupuncture on 90 subjects suffering from migraines over a 10-day period showed positive results after just one treatment.
The conclusion of this study revealed, “Comprehensive auricular acupuncture reduces apparently the headache score for migraine without aura and relieves the clinical symptoms of migraine.”
Placebo Effect vs. Real Science
A placebo is anything that seems to be a "real" medical treatment, but isn't. It could be a pill, a shot, or some other type of fake treatment. People can have a negative or positive response to a placebo. For instance, the person's symptoms may improve or the person may have what appears to be side effects from the “treatment.” These responses are known as the “placebo effect.” Sometimes, a placebo can produce results even when people know they are taking a placebo. Studies show that placebos can influence the following conditions:
- Sleep disorders
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There is a correlation between how strongly a person expects or wants to have relief and whether that relief occurs. The stronger the want or belief that the medicine or treatment will work, the more likely it is that a person will experience positive effects.
Our clients’ opinions seem to be that this piercing really does work, and with the sheer quantity of piercings we receive, I personally would be inclined to believe that there must be some truth to this myth. However, until there are scientific studies with conclusive and concrete results, our professional opinion is that a client cannot expect the daith piercing to be a cure. If you do expect it to be a cure, you will set yourself up for frustration and anger if it does not work. That being said, there is no real harm in having hopes that a daith piercing will provide relief if you’re suffering from anxiety and depression. Believing that it will work may even be the reason that it does.
We recommend getting your daith pierced because it’s a unique piercing. If you find relief, then great! If not, you’ve still got a cool piercing.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.
Zhongguo Zhen Jui (Chinese Medical Journal on Acupuncture & Acupressure)
Daith piercing images used with permission from Faith Niz at Grim City Tattoo Club.
Other images are copyright to respective owners and found on Google.