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While daith piercings, which run through the innermost cartilage of the ear, have been around for some time, they’ve become increasingly popular in the past few years — and not just because they look absolutely stunning. The piercing’s unique location is also a pressure point in acupuncture, and some have credited their daith piercing with relieving symptoms of anxiety, among other conditions. Do daith piercings actually help? POPSUGAR consulted experts to find out.
What Is a Daith Piercing, and How Does It Work?
A daith piercing is one of 12 types of cartilage piercings. These hoops hug the tiniest fold of cartilage in the ear — that little soft spot directly above the ear canal. Like other types of cartilage piercings, daith piercings are more likely to become irritated and can take longer to heal than piercings on the ear lobes (something to consider before getting one).
However, the location of a daith piercing is also used as a pressure point in acupuncture, which studies suggest may provide more immediate relief for symptoms of generalized anxiety than other treatments, including medication. That’s why some believe that a daith piercing, by applying consistent pressure to one of the points used to stimulate the vagus nerve, may help reduce anxiety.
Do Daith Piercings Really Help With Anxiety?
At this point, any evidence suggesting that daith piercings can help ease symptoms of anxiety is purely anecdotal. “While it is an acupressure point and the idea is that keeping pressure on a point like that can stimulate that area and reduce pain and anxiety, there is no medical evidence to support it,” Hemalee Patel, DO, an internal medicine physician at One Medical, tells POPSUGAR.
Kristen Casey, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and owner of Evolve Psychological Services, notes that there simply haven’t been clinical trials or studies to investigate any potential benefits daith piercings may have when it comes to anxiety. “There are studies out there that suggest acupuncture may reduce symptoms of anxiety and migraines,” Dr. Casey tells POPSUGAR. “It would be helpful to have a randomized controlled trial to explore the relationship between daith piercings and subjective anxiety symptoms compared to other treatments, such as medications, evidence-based psychotherapy, and alternative methods, such as acupuncture, meditation, or yoga.”
The same could be said for research exploring any potential link between daith piercings and a reduction in migraine pain. “People [with daith piercings] have experienced symptom relief with migraines,” Dr. Patel says, though she adds that the piercings are still not typically recommended by physicians, who defer to evidence-based treatments like acupuncture. The scientific literature on daith piercings and migraines is “limited,” Dr. Casey says, and “there is a possible placebo effect proposed by some medical professionals.”
But while daith piercings have not been proven to treat conditions like anxiety, “that’s not to say that these piercings may be ineffective for some people,” Dr. Casey says. “There may be people who identify that daith piercings work for them. There is just limited research to support this finding.”
Other Options For Treating Anxiety
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it’s important that you talk to a doctor or therapist. While a daith piercing may or may not bring relief, there are plenty of other treatment options that can. Dr. Casey says she’s happy to refer clients to both acupuncturists and psychiatrists (who can prescribe medication), depending on how they prefer to manage their anxiety.
In addition, “psychotherapy [aka talk therapy] with a psychologist or therapist may be helpful,” Dr. Casey says, noting that providers should work with clients to identify treatments that best meet their needs. “A few evidence-based treatments that may be used to treat anxiety disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). The treatment modality depends on the client’s presenting concerns, the severity of the anxiety, and the type of anxiety disorder.”