An industrial piercing consists of a single piece of barbell jewelry that passes through two piercings. The term is strictly American, and the same procedure is dubbed a scaffold piercing in the United Kingdom. While the piercings, technically, can be in any location on the body, it is generally accepted that they occur on opposite sides of the upper ear cartilage.
The specific locations of the piercings are usually dependent on the size of the person’s ear and the length of the jewelry, which averages 1.5 inches. The piercing on the front of the ear, the anti-helix piercing, is often higher than the piercing on the back of the ear. This diagonal slant accommodates for the length of the barbell, which is inserted from behind the back piercing, over the upper cartilage of the ear, and through the inside of the front piercing. The barbell is then secured with screw-type beads on each end.
Although a straight barbell is the most common type of jewelry used for industrial piercings, offshoot designs can also be used. One common barbell design that is used has several circular twists in the center of the bar. Another type is designed with a single loop in the center. Small ornaments, such as skulls can also be affixed to the center of the barbell.
The actual piercings are made using a 14-gauge hollow piercing needle. The barbell is inserted immediately after the piercing is complete and kept in place for the duration of the healing period, which can last from 6 months to 12 months. Alternately, a pair of captive bead rings (CBRs) can be used during the healing process, and the barbell is only inserted once healing is complete. The use of CBRs for an industrial piercing is debated among professionals. On one hand, CBRs shorten the time required for healing, but on the other hand, the healed piercings are often out of alignment with each other.
The piercing phase of an industrial piercing is no more painful than any other ear cartilage piercing, but it is often associated with increased pain while healing. This is because the single barbell is attached to both piercings, and it is easily jostled, causing a double dose of pain. The long healing time also means there is an increased risk of infection, but if the piercings are kept clean and are attended regularly, problems do not usually result.