If you find yourself debating whether or not to get a body piercing, you are hardly in the minority. Many people have body piercings (most common being the ears), and many more people have multiple piercings decorating other various parts of their body. As opposed to a tattoo, which is intended to be permanent decision, most piercings can be removed for certain occasions with no threat of the hole closing up (the exception of course, are oral piercings - they heal quickly).
Piercings have a long history - in every culture there are various forms of piercings and body modifications. While piercings were once mainly symbolic instruments of ornamentation, now they are fashionable and used to enhance appearances. Common piercing locations include the ears, the face, oral, genital, navel, and surface piercings. If there is skin or cartilage, it can probably be pierced!
Piercing techniques are generally the same - especially in America, where piercing conditions are closely monitored for health and safety reasons. A sterile hollow needle is passed through the skin/cartilage, followed by the insertion of the body jewelry into the hole. Piercing guns, the popular method of piercing in malls, are not good for piercing. Piercing guns cause damage to the surrounding tissues, and piercing guns are almost impossible to properly sterilize; when considering a new piercing, it will behoove you to go to a professional piercing shop where the people are highly trained.
Most piercings are relatively painless procedures: the human mind tends to psyche itself out, and the actual pain is usually quick, intense (to varying degrees), and fleeting. Once the jewelry is inserted, the area may be tender, but in no means should you ever be in excruciating pain. Following a new piercing, the aftercare recommended by your piercer should be followed. Regardless of what you got pierced, correct aftercare is the most important step! Although only you can be the best judge of how your body heals (therefore, monitor yourself carefully), there are some rules of thumb that apply to most people.
First, consider your daily activities. If you are very active, it is important to bathe regularly to keep harmful bacteria and dead skin cells at bay. Most people use saline with great success, but most piercers sell liquid antimicrobial solutions; clean the piercing regularly (once or twice a day), but not too often so as to irritate it! Above all else, NEVER touch your piercing with dirty hands! Always wash with warm water before handling your new piercing - that is the surest way to prevent infections. Remember, you are the best judge of your body - if something is wrong, your body will alert you - so pay attention!