Have daith: Ear today, headache gone tomorrow, say some fans of popular daith piercing

After years of headaches and no solutions, 75-year-old Carolyn Ridenour decided to get a daith piercing, which has become particuarly popular lately with those seeking relief from headaches. Ridenour got a daith piercing in her right ear on Aug. 29. It’s “a weird little piece of beauty,” she said.

Carolyn Ridenour, 75, got a daith piercing in her right ear in August and while it hasn’t taken all her headaches away, it did seem to alieviate the worst.

The conversation at a local church’s women’s retreat last summer was buzzing about daith piercings.

It was all Carolyn Ridenour heard about. So and so had one or had a relative or friend who had gotten one with the hope it would help with headaches.

One lady even came up to Ridenour wanting to give her $20 to encourage her to get a daith piercing.

“I’ve had headaches most of my life,” said Ridenour, 75.

But nearly two years ago, “my headaches ramped up” and there was one that regularly came that was so horrible she wanted to bang her head against a brick wall or worse. “It was a crazy-maker,” Ridenour said.

She took high doses of painkillers, and in the past year she has been seen by roughly 10 doctors and had an MRI, CAT scans, X-rays, “everything known to man,” she said.

One doctor happened to tell her about another patient who got a daith piercing to address headaches.

Daith piercing? “What is that?” was Ridenour’s response.

Piercings “have just never been my thing,” she said.

But the Monday after the women’s retreat, Ridenour picked up her oxygen tank and walked into Pandora’s Piercings on Main Street to get her first piercing since the earrings put in her earlobes as a teenager.

The daith is the fold-like bit of cartilage right above opening to the ear canal, and for the past year it has been a hot spot for piercing, particularly for those seeking relief for headaches.

At Pandora’s Piercing, 418 Main St., they perform between three and eight daith piercings a day, but some days are crazy and they’ll do 14, said Jennifer White, who has been doing piercings for 14 years.

Those seeking a daith piercing range in age from preteens — “It’s an earring, not a nipple!” — to older adults, she said.

White has had people burst into tears and hug her after getting the piercing because the migraine they’ve dealt with for weeks is finally gone.

Other clients haven’t had their headaches go away, but experienced fewer or less-intense headaches, she said. Some are able to reduce the pain of a headache by pinching the piercing.

Still others received no relief.

“Not everyone gets a magic off switch,” said White, who along with Ridenour is quick to point out that despite anecdotes there is no scientific proof a daith piercing cures or relieves headaches.

It’s a short-term answer to a complex issue, said April Schulte-Barclay, a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and licensed acupuncturist with Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions.

If you’re getting headaches or migraines, there are systemic problems that need to be addressed such as digestive, skeletal or hormonal issues, poor nutrient absorption or stress, she said.

“It’s usually a constellation of issues,” she said.

Acupuncture is one of the ways Schulte-Barclay helps patients deal with pain while working to discover and address the underlying causes for the headaches.

The daith piercing is placed in one of the points she can use during acupuncture. However, if it has been pierced, she can’t do it because the tissue there has been killed.

“It’s done,” Schulte-Barclay said.

While Ridenour still has headaches since getting a daith piercing on Aug. 29, at least the “crazy-maker” is gone, she said.

She’s got a coupon for more piercings, so perhaps she’ll get her other side done, Ridenour said with a laugh.

Her husband doesn’t mind the piercing. He tells her, “Whatever works. ... He’s watched my struggle,” Ridenour said. “Constant pain wears you down.”

And when Ridenour asked her then 97-year-old mother — she recently died — what she thought about the piercing, she said, “Carolyn, let me give you the money.”

“I didn’t need another hole in my head,” Ridenour said. But “I happen to think it’s kind of cute. A weird little piece of beauty.”


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