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.
Like most piercings, a tragus piercings is painful to get. But how painful is it, exactly? And how long does the pain last? Read on for a look at what you can expect from a tragus piercing when it comes to pain.
The tragus of the ear is made up of a thin layer of flexible cartilage. This means there isn’t as much thick tissue filled with nerves that cause pain as other areas of the ear. The fewer the nerves, the less pain you typically feel.
But cartilage is harder to pierce than regular flesh, so a piercer will likely need to apply more pressure to get the needle through, which can cause some added pain, especially if your piercer isn’t experienced.
And as with any piercing, the amount of pain varies from person to person. But 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.
The pain associated with getting a tragus piercing tends to be short lived and may resolve on its own in a matter of minutes after the procedure.
To do a tragus piercing, your piercer will:
- Clean your tragus with purified water and a medical-grade disinfectant.
- Label the area to be pierced with a nontoxic pen or marker.
- Insert a sterilized needle into the labeled area of the tragus and out the other side.
- Insert jewelry into the piercing that you choose beforehand.
- Stop bleeding from the piercing.
- Clean the area again with water and disinfectant to make sure the area is totally clean.
What about a piercing gun?
Piercing guns don’t work well for piercing cartilage. They can lead to scarring and additional pain, among other issues.
If your piercer wants to use a piercing gun on your tragus, consider looking for another piercer.
The cost of a tragus piercing ranges from about $20 to $50, depending on several factors, including:
- the experience of the piercer
- the popularity and location of the studio
- the type of jewelry used
Keep in mind: This price range doesn’t include the cost of aftercare supplies or a tip for your piercer. Jewelry prices can also vary widely, which could drive the cost up considerably.
While pain related to the piercing procedure tends to only last for a few minutes or hours, you may have some lingering soreness as it heals. After all, new piercings are essentially open wounds.
As it heals, avoid putting any pressure on the area to minimize pain and discomfort. This might mean doing your best to only sleep on one side, holding the phone to the opposite ear, and avoiding tight hats for a few months.
A fully healed tragus piercing shouldn’t cause any pain unless it gets infected or snags on something.
Tragus piercings typically heal in 3 to 6 months, but the whole process can take up to a year in some cases.
To keep things moving smoothly, follow the aftercare instructions provided by your piercer.
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
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Don’t immerse the piercing in water for at least 3 weeks after you get the piercing. Showering (carefully) is fine, but you’ll want to avoid swimming.
- 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 gently rinse any crust with warm, clean water and gentle, unscented soap.
- Do soak the piercing in warm salt water or saline solution and dab dry with a clean towel at least once daily (after the first day).
All piercings come with some risks, and tragus piercings are no exception.
Here’s what to watch for:
- Infection. An infected tragus piercing will be painful. You might also notice redness, heat, and bleeding that won’t stop. It can also cause dark or foul-smelling pus and a fever.
- Bloodborne infections. You shouldn’t have to worry much about this if you go to a qualified, professional piercer. But getting a piercing done with a reused or non-sterilized needle can expose you to infections, like hepatitis B and C, and HIV.
- Bumps. Cartilage piercings carry a risk of producing lumps and bumps, including keloids, pustules, and granulomas.
- Allergic reaction. Allergies to certain metals are fairly common, especially nickel. A lot of body jewelry contains some nickel, which could cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms include itching, redness, and blisters. Your piercer can help you choose jewelry that carries a minimal risk of causing an allergic reaction.
- Rejection. In rare cases, your body may treat the jewelry in your piercing like a foreign body and try to push it out. This is called a rejection. If it happens, you may notice the hole getting bigger, or skin flaking or thickening around it.
- Catching or tearing. The ear tends to be a high-traffic place (think about putting on a shirt, talking on the phone, wearing a hat). Use extra caution after getting a tragus piercing to avoid snagging the jewelry on anything.
If you run into any of these issues, contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible to avoid further complications.
Again, some pain is common after a piercing. But you’ll want to see if a healthcare professional if the pain doesn’t let up at all after a few days or seems to get worse over time.
You should also seek medical help if you notice:
- 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
Tragus piercings tend to hurt more than earlobe piercings because of the added pressure that’s applied to get the needle through your ear’s cartilage.
But this pain typically resolves in a matter of minutes. It’s not unusual to have a bit of soreness as it heals, especially if you put pressure on the area, but most people find that it’s a pretty tolerable level of pain.
That said, if you notice throbbing pain or the soreness starts to feel unbearable, contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible, as these could be signs of an underlying issue, like an infection or piercing rejection.