Is a Septum Piercing Painful?

Reviewed on 1/22/2021

Septum piercing
Septum piercings can be painful, especially if the septum deviates. It feels like a strong pinch/prick/sting.

A septum piercing is a piercing that goes through the nasal septum. The nasal septum is the partition that divides the nose into two nasal cavities or nostrils. The nasal septum is thin and made up of cartilage. A needle is passed through the anterior (front) part of the septum and then the jewelry is put in place, which is typically a ring, horseshoe, or a bar.

Most piercings can be uncomfortable since a needle is pushed through the skin. The level of pain while piercing varies depending on where the piercing is done and the individual’s pain tolerance. Septum piercings can be painful, especially if the septum deviates. It feels like a strong pinch/prick/sting.

How are septum piercings done?

Septum piercings are performed like most piercings. There are some variations in the method. The piercer will disinfect the area. They use a small clamp to hold and support the septum. A hollow needle, also called a cannula, is passed through the septum to make the hole. A piece of jewelry, typically made of metal (surgical stainless steel, titanium, or gold), is worn through the new hole.

What happens after septal piercing?

The initial period after the piercing can be very painful, and the nose can be tender to touch. This initial part of healing takes around 1-3 weeks. Septum piercings can take around 6-8 months to completely heal. The jewelry can be changed after 6-8 weeks, provided it has healed well. However, it is advised to leave the original jewelry on for as long as possible.

The nose can be cleaned every day with salt and water solution or saline nasal drops/sprays. It is normal to have a minimal amount of watery discharge, which may be bloodstained, and crust formation around the piercing. If the discharge is yellow or green and/or foul-smelling, it indicates an infection and requires medical attention. Once the piercing has been on for more than a few months, the hole may not ever fully close but may shrink. If the hole shrinks, re-piercing may be required.

What are the complications of septum piercing?

Some possible risks associated with a septum piercing include:

  • Allergic reactions: This can occur if the jewelry contains nickel or other reactive metals.
  • Infections: Infection can lead to the accumulation of pus.
  • Septal hematoma: Accumulation of blood within the septum. This can cause severe pain, swelling, and tenderness. It can lead to a septum perforation (hole formation) if not treated.
  • Bloodborne diseases: There is a risk of contracting bloodborne diseases, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis B or C if the instruments were not sterilized properly.
  • Scarring: A thick scar tissue or keloid can form. Aesthetically, they are typically not visible but can cause discomfort.
  • Tearing: The jewelry used can get caught on something and torn out, leading to a tear, pain, and bleeding.

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References
Salamanader Jewelry. A History of Septum Piercing Jewelry. https://www.body-piercing.com/blog/a-history-of-septum-piercing/

Meltzer DI. Complications of Body Piercing. Am Fam Physician. November 15, 2005;72(10):2029-2034. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1115/p2029.html

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