Thursday, August 10, 2017

For Science! Daith Adventures Edition

Hey, guys! I know it's been a REALLY long time, but I swear I have actually been working on book stuff. I have several stories in the works, and Megan at EmCat has been working really hard to keep up with me. Today, though, I'm going to engage in a little experiment of sorts, and this is going to be my log, and I'll do my best to keep it to only one, constantly updated entry. This is supposed to mostly be a book blog, after all. Sorry. The first entry will probably be really long, but I expect them to be a little shorter after. I just really wanted to put the whole piercing experience, because it's part of this adventure.

For the last several days, I decided it was time to finally look into a daith piercing for migraine relief. I have, on average, either a migraine or tension headache every 2-3 days. I have a tweenager and a toddler, guys. I am the one who keeps up with everyone's schedules, runs everyone's errands (even several for people I don't live with), and gets everyone where they need to be. I don't have time for this nonsense. Anyways, this seems to be a really popular method. And honestly, I spend more on pain medications in 2 months than I did on this piercing.

During this process, I noticed that finding good information was somewhat difficult, at least for several of the questions I had. The science of it seems to be a little sketchy. There aren't really any conclusive studies. Half seem to say it was really helpful. Half seem to say it didn't work. Half said it was horribly painful. Half said it was whatever. There are so many different stories, so many accounts, and it was so hard to sort through. However, it still seemed worth a shot. I try really hard to not think of the SUPER negatives (piercing rejection, cartilage damage, severe infection, etc. [which, don't get me wrong, are still very real possibilities]), so I figured, worst case scenario not involving those, it wouldn't work, and it would still look super cute. So game on.

With all these stories out there, and answers to some questions I really couldn't find without showing up to the parlor, I thought I'd log my experiences here. And if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them. Keep in mind, I am NOT a piercing professional, doctor, or even scientist. I'm just a happy little pincushion. My experiences may not be the same as others, and I can't guarantee that the results would be the same for anyone else; just like my headache history/type/severity may not be the same as yours. So here we go:

8-10-17: Piercing Day


End result on my right ear. The blue line is the mark that he used to determine where this was to go.

My area has had rain moving in today, so there's been some air pressure shifts, a guaranteed kickstarter to at least a regular headache for me. The pressure in my skull was building when I decided it was time to actually go look at the tattoo parlors. I had a few in mind, but this one happened to be my first stop (literally right down the road from my house), and I really loved it. Should I have done more research? Maybe. But I feel like I made a good choice. I felt like it was a great place. I felt safe there. It was clean. Everyone I spoke with was friendly. I even watched one of the tattoo artists give his honest opinion about a placement concern. Honesty from the staff. YES. That's the kind of thing I'm looking for in a really big decision like this. I want someone to tell me I'm making a dumb decision if they feel that's the case.

The piercer was really friendly, funny, and answered all my questions before I ever went to the back. And poor man. I walked in with seemingly a hundred questions, and I was nervous as could be. We're talking *FLAIL* *PANIC*! You see, I have a nasty little habit of passing out when I'm stabbed with needles, piercings or otherwise. I'm pretty sure it comes from 32 years of nurses who seemingly refused to believe that I have teeny tiny veins that roll, so when I tell them I need a butterfly needle, that's exactly what you need to use, or you will fail. He assured me that it happens often enough, and he can handle it.

I was also worried about the pain. I've heard anything from it being the worst piercing pain ever to it really not hurting at all. He explained that it would probably hurt some, but not to believe the horror stories. Was still a little skeptical on that, but I figured that there could be NO pain worse than being stranded alone in your room with blackout curtains, hiding under the covers, feeling like you're being kicked in the head on a regular basis. So, after showing my ID and filling out the paperwork, off to the back we went.

His specific room was just as clean but still had personal touches that made me feel a little more comfortable. Here, he confirmed which ear I was getting done. His personal recommendation, shared by many piercers, is to pierce the one on the side of the head that hurts more often. In my case, this was my right. I might go back for the left when this is healed, but that's definitely for another day. You want to keep one ear that you can lay on at night, and you don't want to have to take care of a billion holes at once.

He talked to me the whole time, and I always knew where he was and what he was doing. He made sure to explain every step of the way. After I sat down, he got his gloves on and stuff ready. Everything was brand new, still in the sterile packaging when I got there. Nothing shared. IMPORTANT. This is something you want to look for in your search. Communicable diseases and infections are very real things, and they should be taken very seriously and prevented. Then, he started marking ... and remarking. Also important. I really don't want to wind up with more piercings than I came in for. I want him to know where that needle is going in and where it's coming out. And I want him to be right the first time. Before we actually got to the scary stuff, he made sure to take all the pieces out and show them to me. Again, no surprises. He explained what they were and how he was going to use them.

On to what I consider the scary stuff. I'm told some people get to lay down during this process. I didn't. I was sitting up, BUT he did prefer me to lean back a bit so that if I did actually go down, he could catch me easier. My piercer used a numbing spray on me. That is the weirdest feeling anywhere, especially in your ear. I was warned when he got close to me with the needle, and I did my best to stay still. Keep in mind, the stress alone had me close to throwing up by this point. Staying still is way easier said than done. The actual stabby bit was quick. It did still sting, but not any more than a blood draw (with a correct needle). Thank you, numbing spray? The worst part was the sound. The sound of a needle tearing through cartilage is somewhere between a squish and a crunch. It's awful. But if that's the worst of it, I'm calling it a good experience.

On an interesting note, the second he pulled the ring through, the pressure that had been building in my head just fizzled out. The piercing didn't really feel like much at this point. The pain left with the initial stab. Just in case, though, he had me sit for a few extra minutes. It was a great call, because shortly after, the spots and dizziness showed up. He did not rush me out. He leaned back the chair and let me lay there as long as I needed. He was right next to me the entire time, talking to me and making me laugh, as he had been the entire time. When I was ready to go, he made sure that I was even well enough to leave (was NOT going to let me get into my car if I was unsafe to drive), and he gave me a general speech about care, information sheets with similar info but in a super boring format, and a bottle of sea salt spray to help keep infection away. Also, most importantly, the assurance that I could come back with ANY issues related to my new daith piercing. Overall, great experience.

Oh. End cost: $42. This also included the jewelry and after care but does NOT include a tip. On average, they seem to range between $40 and $100. The piercer chose my jewelry. He has a very firm belief that titanium hoops in a seamless ring form are best for migraine relief. I've also seen relief with barbells and captive ball rings. It's really more about the pressure point from what I've read. However, I obviously support my piercer's decisions. Migraine relief aside, titanium is far less likely to give a reaction. It's less likely to be rejected. Hoops are easier (in my opinion) to keep clean. They're also harder for the impatient customer (like me) to remove, and cartilage piercings take a VERY long time to heal. Early removal can cause very real damage to the cartilage. You can read up on that yourself. It can get pretty gross, and I do have my limits. But as far as healing times go, we're talking estimated 6 months to a year for a cartilage piercing.

The rest of the day really wasn't that bad. Minor, dull ache in my right ear and seeming to radiate outward a little (down my ear canal and into my jaw), as I would expect with any fresh, deep wound in that area. I know we don't generally think of piercings that way, but essentially, that's what it is.

But most importantly, that dead headache stayed dead.

8-11-17: Day 2


As you can see, it's got a VERY small amount of redness left, but otherwise looks good. No swelling or itchiness. I did have minor pain this morning, but a small dose of ibuprofen put a quick stop to it. Part of that pain could also have been because I was a dummy and forgot to put in my retainer last night, so I woke up with the results from approximately 300 lbs of bite pressure in my face.

Unlike yesterday, cleaning it was really easy today. You know those random bruises that you only find because they hurt JUST ENOUGH for you to notice them, and you're like, "Huh. I wonder how that got there." That's the level of pain I had while cleaning it. I've only messed with it when cleaning it or soaking it in salt solution, and I used mild soap as gently as I could manage. The hoop moved easily enough for me to access the holes.

Later this afternoon, I did have a pre-migraine aura for a while. It's basically a squishy spot in your vision that shows up before your migraine does. In my experience, if I don't medicate at that point, NOTHING will work. We have had more rain move in and out, and air pressure changes have always been one of my triggers, so I knew it might come. I decided to just leave it and see where it went. Which was nowhere. It went away, and the migraine never showed. So much relief.

8-12-17: Day 3

My ear, itself, was throbbing a bit today, so I decided to head back to my piercer. There are so many folds and crannies that it's difficult for me to get a good look at it. Usually, people use a couple mirrors and voodoo magic their way to a good view, but I'm just not the type of girl to have 1000 mirrors in my house. Yeah, I know. I need to invest in one for this purpose. Anyways, I would MUCH rather show up and him tell me that everything is cool than NOT show up and, I dunno, my ear implode or something. Anyways, he said everything looked great. No blood, crust, tearing, redness, anything. No sign of infection or bumps. He rearranged my jewelry (I was advised against doing it myself because of bacteria transfer and possible tearing, so I didn't), and it felt so much better. Soaked it really well when I got home to be safe. Something to keep in mind with this sort of piercing: You're dealing with a nerve system. You will likely feel some discomfort until it heals. It's not, to me, unbearable. Just obnoxious. I do my best to stay busy so I don't think about it.

Rain was on and off most of the day. Pressure was high. My foot that I broke a billion times in the same spot was SCREAMING at me. My head was fine. I joked with the piercer, asking him how many more holes I need to punch to get relief from formerly broken bones. ;-)

8-13-17: Day 4

I had my first real headache today. And today was still VERY much a success.

"Wait, what? That's not a success! You're supposed to have NONE! What a rip!"

Hmm. Yeah, maybe I should elaborate. In order for me to really explain why I consider it a success, you'll need some backstory. My WORST headaches feel like someone is taking a hammer and just smashing it in the top back of my head. I cannot see straight, sometimes not at all. I cannot function. I can barely move. It's this constant LITERAL pounding over and over and over and over every few seconds for 2-3 hours, assuming I took enough medication at first sign. They get stronger with every one. THESE are the ones that finally made me say, "You know what? NO needle is going to hurt me more than this right here." I have seriously been waiting for one of these. These are my real test.

Today's started the same, but in the end, it was very different. I started with one solid smashy feel. The ones that usually warn me, "You know, you really should take something." Well, I decided to ignore that feeling. I said, "FOR SCIENCE!" By gosh, we're gonna give it a good run. About a minute later, I felt one more. This one was much WEAKER. I waited for the next one, thinking that maybe it was just some kind of fluke, and the real pain was coming for me. It never happened. That was seriously it. THAT is why I call today a success.

In fact, I have plans to go get the other ear done on Wednesday, when my piercer goes back in. I am feeling very little pain in my right ear today, and I really want to handle the headaches on the left side. It would be nice to just get both healing processes right out of the way, so I can move on with my life. Plus, I think it would look super cute.

Something else I should probably mention that I wasn't really expecting. I was expecting this to mostly be a physical thing, but it turns out, literally everything affects the brain in different and weird ways. Every day since I had this done, I feel like I NEED to take some form of OTC medication for pain, likely as a preventative for the headaches that may or may not come. I've pushed through this almost every single time, because that is an absolutely insane line of thought. "Well, hey, we might break a bone, someday, so let's just wear full body casts all the time, so that never happens." Like, what?! Anyways, the one time I did take something, it was for my ear, itself, because freshly stabbed holes hurt, and the pain covers more area than we sometime expect. Ear or tooth pain, in my experience, can sometimes cover your whole head. Sinus pain can sometimes be felt in your teeth. For at least the first couple days, there was a constant ache that basically covered huge chunks of the right side of my face while the area tried to figure out how to heal or what even needed to be healed. In that instance, I also took the smallest dose. However, that fear of the pain that could be seems to run VERY deep.

I am NOT a doctor, nor am I a nurse, nor do I really care enough about the subject to do extensive research on it. Plus, I really hate needles, as I have mentioned up top somewhere. I can't even look at them, which is unavoidable in that line of work. I did, however, speak with a friend of mine who IS a nurse, and she agrees that OTC meds don't trigger the same points in the brain as, say, opiates would. They don't cause the same euphoria that gets people hooked. This can't be an addiction. But it's acting the same as one. What gives?

Well, I had the same problem when I was diagnosed celiac. The stuff I used to eat, I didn't want to have anymore, because all those super delicious squishy breads, pretzels, cakes, etc. were literally killing me. But it was just so much easier to not read all the labels and check all the things. I mean, holy crap! Gluten is in EVERYTHING! And I already had so much of that wheaty goodness around the house ... It was a big change that impacted how I lived my life. It was a break in routine and lifestyle that I had to just push my way through. Just like this one. I feel like perhaps I've had this pain problem so long that my body/brain has decided that this was just how our life should be. My life seemed to revolve around using the pain free time I had to get stuff done and preparing for the times that would hurt so bad I couldn't. Waiting for any sign that pain was coming, even a small annoyance, so I could just take what I needed and wade around in the murk for as short a time as possible until I found another break. Up to this point, I no longer seem to have that pain problem, beyond looking out for it for documentation. So while I'm rushing around to get stuff done, my brain is like, "Yo, we haven't had an ouchie thing in a few days. You know it's coming, and you know it's gonna be brutal. Maybe we should just go ahead and take a few ibuprofen to fix it when it finally smashes us in the face." Sorry, brain. I'm not with you on this. You're starting to come up with some really terrible plans. When that feeling goes away completely, I will call it the second most important success, and the first one that I didn't even know I'd be waiting for.

8-14-17: Day 5

I really don't have anything of significance to report. Cleaning was really easy. The bruised feeling was even gone. I'm sure if I knocked it, there would be pain, but I'm trying really hard to not do that. The "Take the ibuprofen" feeling I mentioned yesterday is a little less. I think it's just going to be a matter of pushing through until my subconscious finally sees that we're probably going to be fine. 

Headaches for today: 0

8-15-17: Day 6

Most of the pressure I reported earlier this week is gone. Cleaning and soaking are still pretty painless. I still don't have any redness, itchiness, blood, or goop. Yes, I can still feel that I have an ear, so no numbness or anything like that. I haven't had any headaches today, at all. I really haven't had any urges to take anything to prevent them, either, so that's a pretty significant step on the emotional side.

The only thing I really have going on today is some anxiety about getting the other side done tomorrow. I still have some pretty tough needle anxiety to fight through, even though I know it probably won't be that bad. I was hoping I'd get in there before it could really set in, but it appears it doesn't really matter how soon. I'm apparently going to freak out no matter what.

8-16-17: Day 7

End result on the left. Again, the marks are to help him see where to stabby stabby.

My right side was doing well enough (and even better this morning) that I decided to go in for the left side. The process was essentially the same. I was hoping I was prepared enough that maybe I wouldn't drop out on him this time, but no. I was still pretty woozy when we were done.

So was it otherwise the same? Well, no. Every piercing is different, even ones in the same place but different sides. Even repiercing can be different. And of course, everyone feels things differently, anyways.

The biggest difference is that the left bled, while the right didn't. It wasn't significant. I wasn't gushing blood down my face like some horror movie extra. Just a few drops when it was pierced and a few after I cleaned it.

In my opinion (and my piercer's opinion), the left ear hurts more. It still was not the intolerable horror of horrors that I've heard from people, however. Again, this is ME. I feel like I'm kind of a weenie when it comes to pain, but maybe some people feel stuff worse than I do and would be jealous of my pain skills. Or maybe it would be reversed, right being harder than left. Perspective. But I felt the needle more this time, and I felt the process more. Numbing spray is helpful, of course, but it's not a magical fix-all. It was more uncomfortable to pull the needle through and close the ring once it was in. Maybe it's because it's on the heart side? I'm not sure. It seems a relatively common phenomenon, whether it be piercings or otherwise.

Another thing to consider is that my ears are differently shaped, as you can see. The rook area of my ear is closer to the daith in my left ear. It's hard to see from straight on like this, but it hangs over it a little more. That means he had to move it out of the way and manipulate it so I would only walk out with the ONE piercing. Once that needle is in, this is a painful thing to do.

So how much more painful? Well, you see how the bottom of my ear lobe is straight instead of rounded? That is from stitches to piece my ear back together after I had an earring ripped out when I was a kid. It still hurt less than those stitches. I couldn't say it hurt less than the earring getting ripped out, because I just honestly don't remember feeling it. I'm pretty sure my mom saw it just hanging there and freaked, and I had no clue it had even been torn.

Anyways. After all was said and done, the after pain was the same as the left ear. It really doesn't HURT, per se. It's mostly just the dull pressure that goes down your ear and touches your jaw some. It's very uncomfortable to feel that down your ear canal. Around the piercing really doesn't feel like much unless I'm messing with it to clean or soak. Cleaning it wasn't all that painful, either. I obviously wouldn't give it a good yank, but it's really just not the horror story I had heard.

Do 2 work better than one? Well, I had a very small amount of head pressure when I went in (big storm was coming through just as I was leaving), and it was gone once the ring went through. He didn't have to close it. The magic of pressure points, guys. Don't get me wrong, though. Just the one helped astronomically. The second just seemed to pick up the last bit. It just wasn't the huge sigh of relief that came with the first one.

So since we're right at 7 days, here's my comparison to my average WEEK:

Before

Headaches: 3-4 major; lasted minimum 2 hours, usually 4+; light sensitive; sound sensitive
Medication: 2 Excedrin or 4+ ibuprofen to be repeated as needed (Seriously, guys, this is so bad for you. Don't do this.)

After

Headaches: 1 minor (basically the start of one); lasted less than 1 minute; no light sensitivity; no sound sensitivity; minor healing pressure throughout the day for most of the week
Medication: 2 small doses of ibuprofen for the new piercing pressure down the ear canal (Days 2 & 7); Headache went away without treatment

Could you survive without the post-piercing dose? Yeah, probably. It was just significant enough for me that I had a hard time focusing on anything else. It feels like a mild ear infection pain to me.


8-17-17: Day 8

Before and after cleaning

Today is my very first pain free and pressure free day. I also didn't have to take anything to achieve it. I really don't have words for it on the emotional end. I could cry. At this point in healing on the right ear, I was still feeling a throbby pressure all down my ear canal. On the left, it was that way all night and early into the morning. I woke up not feeling so well, so I took a short nap. But after getting up, in the shower, and cleaning everything off, I felt so much better, and that pressure was gone. One explanation is that I could just be used to feeling the healing throb at this point. It has been a week straight, after all. But with that gone, whatever the reason may be for it, there's really nothing left to bother me.

As far as healing progress, there was a bit of blood to clean off the left side. I'm including a picture just so you can see that it looks a lot worse than it is before you clean it up. It doesn't seem fair to only show shiny and pretty ones, when in reality, the very beginning of any piercing can look like absolute heck, even if it's in good shape. Again, OPEN WOUND. You just gotta keep on cleaning and soaking and hope for the best.

8-18-17: Day 9

I haven't had any headaches today. No medication taken. Despite a lack of pain unless I'm moving it around to clean it, I do still have some bleeding around the ring on the left side. I'm not sure if that's normal or not, but that's all I've got happening today. The right side, however feels completely healed, even though I know it isn't.

8-19-17: Day 10

Still no headaches or medications. Still some bleeding, but no pain. If this continues, I'll probably be back in to have the piercer check it when he gets back on Wednesday. In the meantime, I'm keeping up with the same cleaning routine and salt soaks that I've been given.