The daith piercing is an increasingly popular option to treat migraines, anxiety, and some other symptoms.
On social media, people may come across images of this unique piercing on the inner ear, alongside promises that it will ease anxiety and improve quality of life.
No scientific evidence supports this idea, but this is primarily because no research has directly tested the claim.
However, some limited research does provide insight into how a daith piercing might reduce anxiety. Learn more in this article.
A daith piercing is a piercing through the innermost cartilage fold in the ear. For most people, the piercing goes through the thickest part of the ear cartilage.
The daith piercing requires more skill to perform than some other piercings because the unique shape of the inner ear necessitates a curved needle. It can take 4–12 months to heal, and the initial piercing may be painful.
As with other piercings, there is a risk of infection, especially if the piercer uses an unsterile needle or the person does not keep the area clean as it heals.
As many as 35% of ear piercings develop infections or other complications. People considering a daith piercing should choose a professional piercer and weigh the known risks of the piercing against the uncertain benefits.
Proponents of using a daith piercing as an anxiety treatment say that the piercing continuously stimulates an acupuncture pressure point that practitioners have linked to anxiety and mood.
Acupuncturists call this spot “point zero” and say that it can help the body maintain homeostasis, which means relatively constant internal conditions. Anxiety is a type of disruption in homeostasis.
Research into the general effectiveness of acupuncture for various ailments is relatively new, although acupuncture itself has been around for thousands of years.
However, no peer reviewed scientific research has directly tested the idea that a daith piercing can improve mental health or help a person manage anxiety.
Moreover, some acupuncturists are also skeptical of the piercing. Accessing acupuncture points requires incredible precision. By moving a fraction in any direction, the piercer will miss the point entirely.
Due to this, it is very difficult, and perhaps impossible, for a piercer with no acupuncture knowledge to pierce the right point.
There is some anecdotal evidence that a daith piercing can work. Many online message boards and social media posts include positive feedback about the effectiveness of a daith piercing.
However, without well-controlled research, it is impossible to know whether this is a placebo effect, a false claim by people selling the piercing, or evidence of a novel anxiety treatment.
Aside from the risk of infection, though, there is no evidence of harm from a daith piercing.
Although no scientific research has evaluated how well the daith piercing works for anxiety, a small number of studies have tested the piercing as a solution to migraines.
Some of these studies provide insight into how the piercing might affect anxiety.
A 2017 case report details the case of a 54-year-old man who reported significant improvements in his migraine symptoms after getting a daith piercing to relieve them.
The study’s authors note that a placebo effect might explain the change. However, they also speculate that the piercing could activate vagal afferent fibers. These fibers may alter the functioning of the vagus nerve, which might play a role in anxiety.
Other research confirms that vagal afferent fibers may help modulate mood, especially experiences of fear and anxiety.
Taken together, these data suggest that if the daith piercing really does stimulate the vagus nerve, it might help improve anxiety symptoms.
Additionally, researchers think that the vagus nerve plays a role in the interaction between the gut and the brain. For people with anxiety that causes physical symptoms, such as stomach cramping, stimulating the vagus nerve could contribute to symptom relief.
However, without data directly linking a daith piercing to increased vagal tone or direct vagal stimulation, these ideas are speculative.
There is no scientific evidence that a daith piercing can treat anxiety. The evidence for its role in treating other conditions, such as migraine, is also very scant.
Although this lack of evidence does not necessarily indicate that the piercing does not work, it means that there is currently no reason to recommend it, especially as an alternative to standard treatments.
People considering a daith piercing to relieve anxiety should discuss the risks and benefits with a doctor. If they decide to get the piercing, they should choose a professional piercer with extensive experience and continue pursuing other treatments and remedies for anxiety.