The tragus of the ear is the thick piece of flesh that covers the opening of the ear, protecting and covering the tube that leads into the internal organs of the ear like the eardrum.

The tragus piercing is becoming more popular due to advancements in the science of pressure points.

Both the tragus piercing and daith piercing are thought to manipulate nerves that branch off from your vagus nerve.

This may help prevent pain caused by migraines (though the research still isn’t conclusive about the tragus piercing in particular).

No matter why you want it, here are a few things you should know before getting a tragus piercing:

  • how much it can hurt
  • how it’s done
  • how to take care of a tragus piercing

The tragus of the ear is made up of a thin layer of flexible cartilage. This means that there isn’t as much thick tissue filled with nerves that cause pain as other areas of the ear.

The fewer nerves, the less pain you feel when a needle is used to pierce it.

But cartilage is harder to pierce than regular flesh. This means your piercer may need to apply more pressure to the area to get the needle through.

While this may not be as painful as other piercings, it can be uncomfortable or cause injury if your piercer isn’t experienced.

And as with any piercing, the amount of pain varies from person to person.

For most people, the piercing will typically sting the most right when the needle goes in. This is because the needle is piercing through the top layer of skin and nerves.

You may feel a pinching sensation, too, as the needle goes through the tragus. But the tragus heals fast, and you may not feel any pain as quickly as a few minutes after the procedure is done.

An infected tragus piercing can cause pain and throbbing that lasts long afterward, especially if it’s untreated and spreads to the rest of the ear.

To do a tragus piercing, your piercer will:

  1. Clean your tragus with purified water and a medical-grade disinfectant.
  2. Label the area to be pierced with a nontoxic pen or marker.
  3. Insert a sterilized needle into the labeled area of the tragus and out the other side.
  4. Insert jewelry into the piercing that you choose beforehand.
  5. Stop bleeding from the piercing.
  6. Clean the area again with water and disinfectant to make sure the area is totally clean.

Don’t be alarmed if you notice any of the following typical symptoms of a piercing for the first few weeks:

  • discomfort or sensitivity around the piercing
  • redness
  • warmth from the area
  • light or yellowish crusts around the piercing

Here are some dos and don’ts for tragus piercing aftercare:

  • DON’T touch the piercing unless you’ve washed your hands to avoid getting bacteria in the area.
  • DON’T use any soap, shampoo, or disinfectants on the area for the first day after the piercing.
  • DO gently rinse any crust with warm, clean water and gentle, unscented soap.
  • DON’T immerse the piercing in water for at least 3 weeks after you get the piercing.
  • DON’T rub the piercing dry after you clean it. Instead, gently dab it dry with a clean cloth or paper towel to avoid scraping or tissue damage.
  • DO soak the piercing in warm salt water or saline solution and dab dry with a clean towel at least once a day (after the first day).
  • DON’T remove or be too rough with the jewelry for 3 months until the piercing is fully healed.
  • DON’T use alcohol-based cleaners on the piercing.
  • DON’T use scented lotions, powders, or creams that contain artificial or chemical ingredients.

Some popular choices for a tragus piercing include:

  • Circular barbell: shaped like a horseshoe, with ball-shaped beads at each end that can be removed
  • Captive bead ring: shaped like a ring, with a ball-shaped bead at the center where the two ends of the ring snap together
  • Curved barbell: slightly curved bar-shaped piercing with ball-shaped beads on each end

Here are some of the possible side effects that can happen from a tragus piercing. See your piercer or a doctor if you see any of these symptoms after getting your piercing.

Infection

Symptoms of a piercing infection include:

  • warmth coming from the piercing that doesn’t get any better or gets worse over time
  • redness or inflammation that doesn’t go away after 2 weeks
  • continuous pain, especially if it gets worse over time
  • bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • pus that’s dark in color or has a strong, foul smell

Swelling

Swelling for about 48 hours after a piercing is expected. But swelling that continues longer than that may mean the piercing wasn’t done properly. See a doctor or your piercer right away if this is the case.

Rejection

Rejection happens when the tissue treats your jewelry like a foreign object and grows thick tissue to push the piercing out of your skin. See your piercer if this happens.

See a doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms, especially if they don’t go away after a few weeks or get worse over time:

  • warmness or throbbing around the piercing
  • dull aching pain that gets worse over time or becomes unbearable
  • dark yellow or green discharge from the piercing
  • uncontrollable bleeding
  • discomfort or pain in other parts of your ear or inside your ear canal

The tragus piercing is considered much less painful than other ear piercings. It’s also a good piercing if you want something a little different from the norm.

Just make sure you take the right precautions and get medical help as soon as possible if you experience side effects that may indicate a problem.