Nipple Piercings

There’s no way around it — nipple piercings generally do hurt. Not exactly shocking seeing as how you’re literally piercing a hole through a body part packed with nerve endings.

That said, it doesn’t hurt a ton for everyone, and there are certain things that can make it hurt more or less.

If you’re considering bejeweling your nip(s), we’ve got the answers to all your Qs.

How painful is it?

It mostly depends on how sensitive your nipples are, which can vary a lot from person to person.

Some people can take a purple nurple without so much as a wince. Some people can’t even handle a breeze without their buds standing at attention. 

And some are sensitive enough to climax from nipple stimulation alone. (Yep, nipple orgasms are a thing — and they’re awesome. You can read all about them here.)

If you ask people with nipple piercings how much it hurt on a scale of 1 to 10, the answers are all across the board.

Compared to other piercings, you can expect it to hurt more than getting an ear pierced, but less than a clitoris or penis piercing. 

Pain is subjective. Everyone’s pain tolerance is different and can vary from day to day depending on factors like your stress levels, your mood, and even your menstrual cycle.

How long does the pain last?

The jolt of pain felt from the act of puncturing the nipple only lasts a second or two. According to people who’ve had it done, it feels like a quick bite or pinch.

Beyond that, you can expect your nipples to be pretty tender for the first two or three days. How tender? Again, depends on how sensitive you are. The pain is often compared to a bruise or sunburn. A throbbing sensation the first day isn’t unusual.

As long as you’re practicing proper aftercare and being careful with it, the pain should gradually improve over a few days. 

Any way to minimize or prevent pain?

Yes, actually. 

For starters, do your homework and choose an experienced piercer. The skill and experience of the piercer and the type of equipment they use can affect how painful the procedure is.

Read reviews and get recommendations from others who’ve had their nips done. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, make an appointment to check out the shop and talk with your potential piercer. Ask about certification and their health and safety practices.

Here are some other things you can do that might help make it less painful:

  • Reduce your stress levels. Being relaxed for your appointment is key. Easier said than done, we know, but being stressed lowers your pain tolerance. Before your appointment, do something relaxing, like yoga, which has been shown to reduce stress and increase pain tolerance.
  • Use mental imagery. It sounds corny, but visualizing your happy place before and during your piercing can help you relax and manage the pain. Imagine yourself lying on a beach or sitting surrounded by soft puppies — or whatever makes you feel good. Just try to be as detailed as possible when imagining it.
  • Get enough sleep. There’s research linking linked sleep deprivation to increased sensitivity to pain and lower pain tolerance and threshold. Try to get a good night’s sleep every night leading up to your appointment.
  • Don’t drink. Drinking before a piercing is a no-no. Not only is it not legal for someone to perform a piercing on a drunk person, but drinking beforehand can also make you more sensitive (physically and emotionally).
  • Get pierced after your period (if you have one). A lot of people also have breast tenderness just before their period starts. Scheduling your nipple piercing for a few days after your period might make it less painful.
What are my options for pain relief?

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, there’s going to be some pain. An over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the way to go.

Applying an ice pack or cold compress over the area can be soothing, too. Just be careful not to press too hard or be too rough. Ouch!

Using saltwater to keep the piercing clean can also be soothing and help minimize pain and the risk of infection.

To do this, dissolve ¼ teaspoon of sea salt in 8 ounces of warm water and soak the area. 

Is it normal for my whole breast to hurt?

No. Even if you have particularly sensitive breasts, the pain from your nipple piercing shouldn’t affect the rest of your breast. 

Pain beyond the nipple may indicate an infection, so it’s best to follow up with your healthcare provider

How do I know if it’s infected?

Pain is just one possible symptom of an infection. 

Here are some symptoms and signs to look out for:

  • extreme pain or sensitivity around the nipple or breast
  • swelling of the piercing site
  • the piercing feels hot to the touch 
  • skin redness or rash
  • green or brown discharge
  • foul odor near the piercing site
  • fever
  • body aches
Could my body be rejecting the jewelry?

It’s possible.

Your body’s immune system could see the jewelry as a foreign object and reject it.

This begins with a process called “migration” in which your body begins to push the jewelry out of your body. The signs and symptoms come on gradually — usually a few days or weeks before it rejects the jewelry.

Here are signs that this may be happening:

  • the jewelry moves closer to the surface of your skin
  • the tissue gets thinner
  • you notice a change in the way the jewelry is positioned
  • the jewelry feels loose or the hole looks bigger
  • there’s more of the jewelry showing under the skin
At what point should I see a doctor?

Your piercer should be able to offer some insight about any symptoms that come up, but it’s always wise to reach out to your healthcare provider about anything unusual. 

According to the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), you should see a doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • severe pain, swelling or redness 
  • a lot of green, yellow, or gray discharge 
  • thick or smelly discharge
  • red streaks coming from the piercing site 
  • fever
  • chills
  • nausea or vomiting
  • dizziness
  • disorientation
Bottom line:

Nipple piercings hurt, but the real pain only lasts a second and any pain beyond that is totally doable.

If the piercing hurts more than you think it should, talk to your piercer. If you notice any signs of infection, make an appointment with a doctor right away. 

Body piercing troubleshooting for you and your healthcare provider. (n.d.).
de Tommaso M. (2011). Pain perception during menstrual cycle. DOI:
Lee B, et al. (2018). Complications associated with intimate body piercings.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). Piercings: How to prevent complications.
Sivertsen B, et al. (2015). Sleep and pain sensitivity in adults.
Villemure C, et al. (2014). Insular cortex mediates increased pain tolerance in yoga practitioners. DOI:

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