Cartilage Piercing Pain: How Much Does It Hurt?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2018
    Last Updated: January 10, 2021

Cartilage piercings have been extremely popular for many years, and they give the option to customize your look depending on how many piercings you get and where you place them. They can be symmetrical with the same number on each ear, or you can just get one ear decorated and still look great.

However, if you’re thinking about getting your first cartilage piercing, it’s only natural to wonder how much it’s going to hurt you, and that’s exactly what we’re going to be discussing right here.

How Bad Do Cartilage Piercings Hurt?

Compared to other body piercings, cartilage piercings don’t hurt too much. However, cartilage is thick and tough tissue so there will be some pain and discomfort. It’s also worth remembering that everybody is different, and while it may hurt a lot for some, it may not hurt so much for you.

When you’re talking about cartilage piercing pain, there are actually two different types of pain at issue; the initial pain from the piercing needle, and the later pain as the piercing heals.

There are also two different types of cartilage piercings. The piercing most often referred to as a cartilage piercing is situated on the upper ear. You can get many different areas of the ear pierced, and almost all of them, with the exception of the lobes, contain cartilage.

However, the nose also contains cartilage, so you can get a cartilage piercing through the nose septum, or through the tip of the nose as well.

The thing to remember about any piercing is that the initial pain is over fairly quickly. It’s not like a tattoo where the needle enters the skin over and over again.

That being said, a needle doesn’t go quite as deep for a tattoo as it does for a piercing, so it will be slightly more painful for a shorter duration of time. The pain will likely feel sharp and intense, but only for a tiny second or two. By the time you begin to register the pain, it’ll all be over.

How much initial pain you experience is going to depend upon which particular area of cartilage you get pierced. Some are more sensitive than others.

A good way to gauge how the pain will rate is to pinch the area you want to get pierced. It won’t feel exactly the same as getting pierced, but it will give you some idea of how well you tolerate pain in that area of cartilage.

What to Expect at the Shop

For cartilage piercings, a professional piercer will use a hollow needle to make a hole through the tissue. Cartilage is firmer than flesh but softer than bone, so you will feel a bit more resistance than if you get your earlobe pierced, for instance.

Once the needle goes through, the jewelry is inserted. The whole process is over very quickly and you’ll be given your aftercare sheet and sent on your way in no time.

How Long Will a Cartilage Piercing Hurt For?

After the brief initial pain, the cartilage piercing may hurt for up to a week as the inflammation calms down. Because this area doesn’t get much blood flow, it takes longer to heal, which means the healing pain lasts a bit longer than other regions of the body.

After that, you shouldn’t experience much pain unless the jewelry gets pulled or pressed against you while you sleep.

Getting an infection within your new cartilage piercing can also cause increased pain and tenderness. They can also cause permanent damage to the area, so be sure to get your piercing checked out by a doctor if you suspect an infection.​

What Factors Can Affect Cartilage Piercing Pain?

Several factors determine how bad the piercing pain will be. Here are a few things that make a difference.

How much anxiety you experience before the piercing

The more anxious you are prior to the piercing, the more likely it is you will experience the pain as being more intense. Often, it’s the worry beforehand that turns out to be worse than the actual piercing experience.

One of the best things you can do is inform yourself about the process. Knowing everything you can about cartilage piercings prior to getting one takes away the uncertainties of the process. And often it’s the things we don’t know that make us the most nervous.

Whether you use numbing cream

You can use a lidocaine numbing cream prior to your cartilage piercing. You rub the cream on the area you want to get pierced and wait for the duration stated on the packaging.

You will, however, still feel some sensation during the piercing.

One of the most effective piercing numbing products currently on the market is Zensa Numbing Cream, which contains the highest level of Lidocaine allowed by the FDA for over-the-counter use. The feedback left by thousands of customers for this product is nothing short of exceptional.

Just follow the instructions on the packaging, apply shortly before your piercing procedure is due to begin, and look forward to a less painful and more comfortable piercing experience.

The person piercing your cartilage

Who performs your cartilage piercing can make a difference in how much the pain you experience. A more experienced piercer will get the procedure done quicker, and will usually cause less pain because they know exactly where to pierce.

It also depends on how roughly the piercer handles your tissue, the needle, and the jewelry. Ask around to find out what other people’s experiences have been with various local body piercers.

Although cartilage piercing prices may be higher ​when using a more experienced piercer, the extra cost is definitely worth it to help ensure everything goes as well as it can.

How many piercings you get in the same procedure

Obviously, if you double the number of piercings you get from one to two, then you will likely go through double the pain. Therefore, if you decide to get two cartilage piercings for example, prepare for a bit more discomfort compared to getting just the one.​

How your body responds to healing

Over the next few days after the piercing, you will very likely experience at least some amount of pain, and this can vary widely depending on your own personal healing process.

Things such as swelling, bruising, infection, and the formation of piercing bumps can all affect pain levels.

Ways to Deal With the Pain

Now that you know what factors affect pain, here’s what you can do to make getting a cartilage piercing slightly more tolerable.

  • Educate yourself about the process of a cartilage piercing beforehand
  • Listen to music to reduce anxiety and take your mind off the pain
  • Bring along a friend or family member if allowed
  • Tell yourself that you are strong and this won’t hurt much
  • Remember that everybody with a cartilage piercing has gone through the same process
  • Be well rested and not under the influence of substances
  • Relax, breathe, and wear comfortable clothes
  • Try a numbing cream


Yes, you can expect to experience pain during and after a cartilage piercing, but if you choose a quality body piercing shop with sterile conditions and practice proper cartilage piercing aftercare, your pain will be fast and minimal.

And once you’ve finally received your amazing new cartilage piercing; you will have completely forgotten about the pain anyway.​

If you want to ensure your piercing heals the best it possibly can, it’s imperative that you follow your piercer’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality aftercare solution to aid recovery.

The best piercing aftercare product I’ve ever had the pleasure of using up to this point is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan-friendly, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application.

When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

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