Rook Piercing Guide: Pain, Healing and Tips

Rook Piercings
flopes photos/Flickr

Rook, tragus, daith ... The ear has so many possible piercing sites that the terminology gets a bit confusing. Here, we'll focus on rook piercing: The placement of an earring through the upper part of the antihelix—the prominent curve of cartilage that follows that of the helix (the ear's outer rim). In piercing parlance, it's two steps above your tragus, with the daith in between.

What You Can Expect

How well your rook piercing goes depends in part on the anatomy of your ear. Some people have a very pronounced ridge of cartilage, which is easier to pierce than a smaller one, but it requires the piercer to penetrate through more flesh. Smaller ridges don't have as much cartilage to pierce through but can be more difficult for the piercer to get at. Either way, a rook piercing is still a relatively simple procedure for an experienced, professional piercer.

If everything goes right, your cartilage should heal up in four to six weeks. Many people, however, experience at least a couple hiccups along the way, which slows down the healing process. Cartilage piercings are tricky, so it's not uncommon for three to six months to pass before the ear is fully back to normal.

Jewelry Choices

Your piercer will determine the best gauge (size of hole) for your rook piercing based on the prominence of your cartilage ridge. Proper sizing is very important for successful healing. As far as jewelry styles go, your choices are a captive-bead ring, mini curved barbell, or circular barbell:

  • A captive-bead ring looks like a hoop with a bead on it. In reality, the bead isn't threaded through the metal of the ring. Instead, it's actually held in place by the two ends of the ring. It's a good choice for a rook piercing because it's so easy to insert and remove.
  • A mini curved barbell is pretty much what it sounds like: a tiny barbell-shaped earring with a curve. At each end is a ball or other decorative piece that screws onto the curved bar.
  • A circular barbell is a near-complete circle with a ball or other decoration that screws onto each end.


All cartilage piercings share the same basic risks and possible aftercare mishaps. For best results:

  • Follow your aftercare instructions carefully.
  • Avoid contact with makeup, perfume, hairspray, and other irritants.
  • Change your pillowcase daily. 
  • Cleanse your ear after using the telephone, earphones, earmuffs, etc.
  • Act quickly if you start developing any signs of infection.

Signs of Infection

Piercings in your ear's cartilage are more susceptible to infection than other sites. A few signs that could indicate a problem include:

  • Discharge. Anything yellow or green or that looks like pus oozing from your piercing site is cause for concern.
  • Tenderness. Pain is the body's way of telling you something's wrong. The area around your ear shouldn't hurt.
  • Itchiness. The sensation of itchiness is closely related to pain, and like pain, could indicate trouble.
  • Swelling. Inflammation is one way the body reacts to infection. If the area around your piercing site is beginning to swell, it's time to see a doctor.
  • Redness. Some people experience redness around the site at first, but it should not persist beyond the first few days, nor should it spread beyond the site.
  • Fever. If you run a temperature within a few days of getting your rook pierced, see your doctor.

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