Can Piercings Give You Headaches?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Body piercing is the practice of puncturing a part of the body with a needle. After the needle pierces through the skin, cartilage, or tissue, the piercer inserts jewelry into the hole left by the needle. This may be an earring, belly button ring, gauge, tunnels, or other forms or ornamental jewelry.

Body piercing is quite common. Piercing studios, tattoo studios, and even some doctors’ offices can perform piercings.

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The practice is so common that many health and safety standards have been established. These practices can help reduce side effects or complications.

The most common side effects of a piercing include:

  • allergic reaction
  • infection
  • skin irritation
  • abscess
  • embedded earrings
  • pain

With proper care and hygiene, these issues are easy to prevent.

Common piercing sites include daith (the cartilage at the ear’s innermost fold), helix, cartilage, ear, and nose. Each of these sites has some unique care instructions.

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Headaches are a less common side effect of piercing, though little medical research has been done. It’s possible that both getting a piercing and wearing jewelry in a piercing can cause headaches. However, you can take measures to avoid this.

Are headaches a common side effect of piercings?

There’s very little medical research that says new ear piercings commonly cause headaches. Headaches aren’t among the most common side effects of piercings. However, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s not an unusual side effect.

Piercings aren’t the most comfortable procedures to begin with. Certainly, any well-trained technician will take measures to make the piercing more comfortable, but some initial reactions may include:

  • pain at the piercing site
  • bleeding
  • skin irritation
  • headache

If you develop a headache, it’s likely a result of some mild pain and discomfort caused by the piercing.

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This may be especially true for piercings in areas of cartilage, like the inner ear. Softer tissues, like the earlobe, may be less likely to result in additional issues.

How to get headache relief after a piercing

If you develop a headache after a new piercing, there are ways you can find relief. But before you begin taking any medication, you should keep a few things in mind.

First, if you’re experiencing any bleeding, don’t take aspirin (Bayer) or any medications containing aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Aspirin acts as a blood thinner and may increase bleeding from the piercing site.

Second, you don’t want to remove the piercing. Freshly pierced skin or tissue can close up very quickly, and you’ll have to repeat the piercing if you still want it.

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Finally, if the headache persists, speak with your healthcare provider. A mild, temporary headache may occur with a new piercing, but anything severe or that lasts more than 48 hours should be seen by a healthcare provider.

The best treatments for a headache that occurs after a new piercing include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safer to use than aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Be sure to follow dosing instructions.
  • A cold compress. Place ice in a thin plastic bag with a zipper, and wrap the bag in a cloth to avoid irritating your skin. Rest the ice pack on your forehead, neck, or any point where the cool pressure provides relief. You can also place the ice pack near the piercing site to help relieve pain. But be careful to not snag the jewelry on the cloth. This could make the pain worse.
  • Aromatherapy. Some scents have been shown to provide some relief for headaches. Soothing scents, such as eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint, may be the most helpful.

Can daith piercings cause headaches?

A daith piercing is a type of ear piercing where an earring goes through the firm piece of cartilage just above your ear canal. This is called the helix.

In recent years, daith piercings have grown in popularity. Some anecdotal reports suggest it may help people with migraine find relief, though research has not confirmed this.

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The helix, or the spot where daith piercings are inserted, is a spot used during acupuncture and acupressure. Both are well-known headache treatments.

Some people may try to replicate the effect of acupuncture on this spot in order to experience the benefits for their own headaches.

But what they may end up experiencing is a headache — the piercing’s location may make headaches more likely. That’s because the extra firm cartilage of the helix may cause more discomfort than softer tissue like an earlobe.

Additionally, research doesn’t support the claim that daith piercings can stop migraine. No studies have been able to connect daith piercings with reduced migraine attacks.

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Instead, some doctors and researchers believe daith piercings result in the placebo effect. This phenomenon occurs when people think a particular treatment is working the way they intended, when it’s not.

More research needs to be done to confirm whether daith piercings have any benefits for headache or migraine.

Takeaway

Piercings are a fun way to add jewelry adornments to your body. They can show a lot of personality and even cultural traditions. But piercings, like any other procedure, can come with a list of possible side effects, including bleeding, infections, and headaches.

Reputable piercers will take steps to help prevent the most common side effects, but if you develop a headache, you can take steps to ease it while you heal. Consider over-the-counter medications and other headache remedies.

If the headache persists, however, contact your healthcare provider. They will want to check for additional issues that might be causing the headache, including infection.

Read more on: migraine


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