Needle Play

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Play piercing, needle play, or recreational acupuncture is body piercing done for the purpose of enjoying the experience rather than producing a permanent body decoration. Needles, sharpened bones, rusty knives, or other tools used in play piercing are usually removed from the body when the episode is complete, allowing holes to heal over. Those who engage in play piercing may do so for self-expression, as a part of a ritual imitating mock tribal cultures, for the purpose of spiritual self-discovery, for sexual pleasure, for simple entertainment, raising awareness or relieving boredom.

Play piercing as part of a BDSM scene can produce an intense natural endorphin high which can last for hours and can induce orgasm in many of the people who experience it. The experience of multiple piercings in an eroticly or spiritually charged context is qualitatively very different from the experience most people have had with in hospital or Doctor's office settings, in part because the needle is placed 'through' the skin at a tangent so that both ends are accessible, rather than 'into' the skin.

Play piercing should always be carried out using new sterile hypodermic needles or acupuncture needles, and preferably on skin which has been cleaned with an antiseptic such as alcohol or povidone iodine (which is a potential allergen), by people who have been properly trained. Improper technique can result in the transmission of bloodborne diseases (due to needlestick injuries, for example) or puncture wounds, but if done correctly there is far less danger of injury or infection than from being scratched by a cat due to the depth of insertion being controlled and the use of a sterilized needle.

Needles may be arranged in artful configurations, may be laced together like a corset, or may be used to sew on temporary decorations such as bells using sterile thread. If this is part of a BDSM scene then twisting of the needle(s) or pulling them away from the skin will also result in an extra smidgen of glee.

A more extreme form of play piercing is flesh hook suspension where a person is suspended vertically or horizontally by two or more hooks through their flesh. This practice is done in some cultures as a rite of passage or as part of a BDSM performance. There are also dance rituals in which flesh hooks attached to multiple people are attached together.

About Needles

The smaller the gauge, the larger the needle diameter. Common needle gauges for play piercing are 26 through 18. Different gauges of needles have different colour hubs, but these colours are not consistent across brands. On the needle package, the needles are commonly identified first by gauge, and second by needle length (in inches). Thus, a package labelled "22 1 1/2" would contain 22 gauge needles with a length of 1 1/2 inches.

The plastic disposable protection around the needle is called the sheath. The plastic portion permanently attached to the needle is called the hub. Needless to say, care must be taken in handling needles as they can easily cause injury to the handler and those around him/her. If you have not used needles before then it is strongly advised to learn from an experienced user first. You can also practice on a raw chicken

Basic Principles

The basic idea is that the needle should travel just underneath the surface of ordinary skin, to emerge through the skin a short distance from where it was inserted.

The needle tips have a bevel. With regard to the skin being pierced, the bevel may be up or down (it's personal preference).

Shallower = More Pain, Larger Diameter Needle = More Pain


Do not stick needles into internal organs, bones, eyes, etc. Again, the idea is that the needle should travel just underneath ordinary skin, passing only through skin and the subcutaneous layers just underneath the surface.

Play piercing involving the genitals is a special topic, with special precautions that must be followed to avoid causing permanent damage; don't try any sort of genital piercing without further training from someone who is familiar with and competent at genital piercing.

Temporary nipple piercing is enjoyed by people who like intense nipple play. The needle can be thrust through back of the nipple, taking care to include areolar tissue. An entire rosette of needles can be inserted. This of course can be dangerous, with potential exchange of bodily fluids and other infection.

Don't pierce wrists, hands, or spines, or near them. In general, piercing near a nerve tract (eg, near joints); avoid piercing where bones are close to the skin surface. Waist to shoulders is usually fine, though one should avoid the armpit and sternum.

The surface to be pierced should be disinfected first. There are three types of substances that may be used for this:

This is opaque (which may be a problem) and shouldn't be used on someone who is allergic to shellfish.
This should be 70%-90% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl). One shouldn't use it on someone who is on Disulfiram or Antabuse.
These kill a broader spectrum of pathogens than alcohol, and allergic/irritation reactions are rare. Allergic reactions (distinct from irritation) are characterized by pale skin, sweating, localized redness, and asthma-like symptoms.

Some people prefer to wear latex or nitrile gloves as they do piercing, and to use the needle sheath to press down the skin in front of the needle as it is going through so that their hand or finger is not in the needle's way. Although most gloves will not protect you should you stick yourself with a needle, they can protect your hands against any blood (of uncertain infectious status) that may flow from skin punctures.

The primary danger in play piercing is infection. Be sure that the person you are playing with would recognize the signs of infection should they occur, and if so to go receive proper medical care. Some people are in special danger from infection as a result of medical conditions. A common example is diabetes mellitus in which circulation is frequnetly imparired; diabetics often require much longer healing times for any injury, including neadle punctures.

See also

External Links

Barbell.jpg This article is about Body Piercings and their care

See Piercing for an index of other articles

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