Field of Science

How not to cure headaches

Here's a rather painful case reported in the Singapore Medical Journal - a 45-year old woman brought into hospital unconscious. The doctor explains:

The relatives revealed that she had been suffering from a headache (more on the right side) for the last ten years, with off and on exacerbation. They took the patient to a Tantrik, who hammered the nail into her head to get rid of the bad omen.

Now, a Tantrik is a Hindu spiritualist, something like this fellow on the left. But, as far as I can tell, the 'nail in the head' option is not standard tantrik practice.

What it does have a lot of similarities to is trephination, which is not only one of the oldest known forms of surgery, but also one that was taken quite seriously into the modern era (until people started demanding evidence that it actually worked). I guess it just seems intuitively reasonable - if you have a headache, you need to make a hole in your skull.

There was a happy ending to this story. They successfully removed removed the nail, and the lady concerned recovered consciousness and seemed to be doing well.

They don't report whether her headaches stopped.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work by Tom Rees is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.


  1. But seriously, she didn't have a headache while she was unconscious, did she?

  2. Everybody knows you shouldn't use a crooked nail for headaches. For pete's sake, some things should not be recycled! Orthopedic surgeons use brand new straight screws in hip replacements, never pre-used ones that are out of alignment. That is just common sense!

  3. Hmm, yeah, the perfect cure for all ills!

    Dude, it looks to me like the nail got bent when the surgeon hoiked it out with the claw end of the hammer...

  4. Whatever happened to nibbling on willow twigs, beavers never get headaches, or toothaches.

    You'd think a tantric in modern Singapore would use a pneumatic nail gun at least. Maybe the iron supplement of the old style nail had extra benefits for good health.

  5. The problem was with dosage: take TWO nails and call me in the morning.

  6. He hit the nail on the head with this one!!!!!

  7. I'm pretty surprised that the lady's family even allowed her to be nailed on the head or something. I mean, she could have died right at that very moment or have some brain function problems or something. I wonder, if the Tantrik believes this sort of method, have he tried it before?


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS