Migraines remain a mysterious condition, and although we discover new approaches to treating them all the time, we’re not always sure why they work, although we often have some suspicions.
Some of these treatments remain completely anecdotal, like daith piercings, which some claim can reduce or eliminate migraines. Others are discovered to have some scientific basis, and are developed into full treatments that can be tested to determine if they really work or not.
From Case Series to Clinical Trials
This new ear-blowing technique, technically known as “ear insufflation,” first gained attention with the publication of a case series in the journal Functional Neurology, Rehabilitation, and Ergonomics (yeah, we’ve never heard of it, either) in 2013.
In this study, 13 patients were given short puffs of air into their ears in an attempt to relieve a migraine already in progress. Some of the patients were initially given a sham treatment to attempt to eliminate placebo effects, but it wasn’t a fully randomized clinical study.
Of these 13 patients, 9 (69%) saw complete and rapid relief from their migraines. Three more saw moderate relief, and one saw no effect. A 69% success rate for migraines is much better than the usual treatments, which may work for half of people or less, so the procedure has been developed further, and now researchers are recruiting subjects for a clinical trial.
How It Might Work
The key to the potential effectiveness of this treatment is that it might work by affecting stimuli from the trigeminal nerve. Blowing air into the ear could cool the trigeminal nerve, reducing the alarming stimuli it’s sending to the brain and cutting off the migraine. Incidentally, this isn’t the only potential approach that accesses the trigeminal nerve via the ear, since this might be how daith piercings relieve migraines.
On the other hand, the trigeminal nerve underlies and controls the muscles of the jaw, so potentially a more effective way to calm an overstimulated trigeminal nerve is TMJ treatment. TMJ treatment helps balance your jaw, so that the muscles won’t become overworked, tired, or sore–or press on the trigeminal nerve–and they won’t send migraine stimuli to the brain.