Feel that thick piece of cartilage that juts out just below the top curve of your ear? Put a ring (or a stud) on it, and you’ve got a shen men piercing.

This isn’t just any ordinary piercing for looks or edginess — it’s been claimed that the shen men piercing may also have benefits for people with anxiety or migraine. But is there any validity behind these claims?

Let’s get into how a shen men piercing is purported to work, what the research says, and what you should know if you decide to get this piercing.

Shen men piercings are claimed to reduce the pain associated with migraine and to lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms by working on pressure points said to exist in this part of your ear.

Acupressure specialists and holistic health experts believe that the pressure from the shen men piercing location (along with the daith piercing location nearby) applies permanent stimulation to the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve, the longest of the 12 nerves in your head, branches along your body to the cartilage of your ear and as far away as your colon.

Headaches and migraine

Research hasn’t been done specifically on the effects that the shen men piercing has on headaches and migraine.

There’s anecdotal evidence that it reduces the severity of migraine attacks, much like the shen men piercing’s close cousin, the daith piercing.

There’s a little more research on the daith piercing and migraine — a 2017 study in Frontiers in Neurology suggests that stimulating the vagus nerve can modulate the pain pathways that result in migraine attacks and tension headaches.

The study also warns that more research needs to be done to verify if this is actually true, as no controlled clinical trials have been done on either the daith or shen men piercing in relation to migraine.


There’s even less evidence out there that the shen men piercing has any effect on anxiety symptoms.

Some research suggests that this constant pressure can help reduce certain symptoms of migraine and anxiety — so what does the science say about the shen men pressure point?

First, it’s important to note that little research exists to support any effect of the shen men pressure point on pain or anxiety.

But researchers have looked into other effects.

A 2013 study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that this pressure can help with stress and agitation during recovery from colon removal surgery by keeping your heart rate at a low, relaxed pace.

A 2009 study in the American Journal for Chinese Medicine also found a connection between shen men pressure and heart rate, suggesting that shen men acupuncture could reduce insomnia experienced after a stroke.

A placebo effect means that you experience the intended result of treatment not because there’s any evidence that it worked but rather because you believed that it would work — and it did!

There’s plenty of research on how important the placebo effect is to the outcome of many studies and procedures. In some cases, mind over matter is enough for people to get results.

That may be happening when people get a shen men piercing and get relief for their anxiety or migraine.

The short answer here is yes — if you’re getting the shen men piercing for migraine.

If you’re getting the piercing to treat headaches or migraine attacks on one side of your head, it’s recommended to get the piercing on that side.

If you’re addressing anxiety or other symptoms that aren’t specific to your head, it doesn’t matter which ear the piercing is done on. Just keep in mind the whole concept is theoretical.

Any piercing has some potential side effects.

Placing jewelry into your skin has some risks worth considering before you commit, including:

  • pain, although the level depends on your tolerance or experience with other piercings
  • infection from bacteria build-up in the piercing, from unsterilized piercing equipment, or from bacteria introduced to the area by your hands
  • fever, sepsis, or toxic shock syndrome caused by infection
  • rejection of the piercing, where your body identifies the piercing as a foreign object and thickens tissue in the area to push it out
  • you may not like the appearance

Keep in mind that you may not be able to get piercings if you take blood thinners or have a condition that slows your body’s healing process, such as diabetes or an autoimmune disorder.

Ready to get a shen men piercing? Make sure to:

  • research the look of a shen men piercing
  • understand what aftercare looks like and that a piercing can take up to 6 months to fully heal
  • talk to a doctor or a professional piercer to get any of your questions answered
  • know that piercings aren’t covered by health insurance
  • find a piercing shop with a good reputation, licensed piercers, and certifications by local or federal health departments
  • consider first trying other anxiety or migraine treatments backed by research, using this piercing as a complementary measure