"My head would start hurting and then I would start seeing white spots. My vision would get really blurry, then I’d start to throw up."
That’s how Candice Dean describes the migraines she’s been struggling with for 22 years. Dean found herself in an emergency room at least once a month. But after two decades in misery, with countless medications and doctors appointments, her luck suddenly changed, after simply adding a piece of jewelry to her ear.
And she hasn't had a trip to the ER ever since. Dean has taken part in a three thousand year old practice known as a daith piercing --- a quickly popularizing trend for people looking to stop -- or at least reduce -- the onset of a migraine.
There’s been an uptick in these piercings all over the U.S.
"Migraines are the worst part. The last one kept me up all night so this was definitely something to try and alleviate that," said Amber Cetlinski, who came to Elite Ink in Detroit to get the piercing done.
But how exactly does it all work? The piercing is thought to mimic acupuncture by hitting a pivotal pressure point, but outside of that, there isn't whole lot of science backing the phenomenon.
The procedure is done using a straight needle, passed directly through the inner cartilage of the ear.
Elite Ink studio owner, John Motyka, says he began offering the piercing a couple years ago in response to an overwhelming demand by migraine sufferers who said they had heard about it’s effectiveness.
And when the studio surveyed those customers several months later, they say the results were shocking. "What we found was all the clients that we pierced, had some relief….Whether it was mild or whether it was eliminated altogether," Motyka said.
Jennifer Diegel says her daith piercing has been a game changer. "It’s been about two months. I have not had a migraine since. I’ve had a sinus headache -- which I’ll take those any day compared to a migraine."
After ten years in agony, she says she’s finally been able to reclaim a more active life with her kids.
The piercing has seemingly worked for these women. But does it work for everyone?
"About 50% of patients have found it to be helpful," says Dr. Mark Silverman, a neurologist with Providence hospital.
He says ultimately more research is needed. But because there’s very little medication out there to stop headaches from occurring, Silverman says he’s encouraged patients who want to give it a try.
"We’ll have them see the acupuncturist who will put in a small needle in that same area cut to and a lot of times it will give you a better idea as to whether the piercing in that area will be helpful."
Whether it's acupuncture or a more permanent piercing, doctors seemingly agree there’s a lot more to potentially gain than lose.