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Most Painful Place to Get a Tattoo: A Guide For Those Worried About Tattoo Pain

Are you thinking of getting your first ink but scared of how painful it will be? Don’t worry! Let’s look at the most painful place to get a tattoo (and the least painful ones too).

Tattoo Pain is Part of the Process

Do tattoos hurt?” is a common question people ask before getting their first tattoo. And you’re probably going to have 20 different people saying 20 different things about that. But the simplest answer is yes, it hurts! 

Tattoo Pain is Part of the Inking Process

But while the fear of discomfort and pain associated with a tattoo session shouldn’t keep you from expressing yourself through body art, it’s always good to have realistic expectations. 

Nerve Endings Close to the Skin Cause Tattoo Pain During and After

The consensus is – tattoos are very painful for some people while others feel less pain. The level of pain experienced also depends on the body part being inked. 

Keep scrolling to know what you can expect in terms of tattoo pain, plus some tips on minimizing it. If you’re still concerned about the pain, think twice about where you want to get tattooed!   

What Does It Feel Like to Get a Tattoo? Different Types of Tattoo Pain

Tattooing has been one of the most common body decorations and modifications around the world. It involves a handheld device with a pigment-covered sharp needle that pierces the top layer of the skin.

It moves up and down, piercing the skin repeatedly, almost the same as how the needle in a sewing machine works. 

And there’s no single way to describe what kind of pain comes with getting a tattoo. It also depends on what the ink artist is doing. 

However, here are some general sensations you might feel while getting inked.

Scratching Pain

It is the most common sensation you might feel when getting a tattoo. This kind of tattoo pain feels like an intense scratching as the needle moves in your skin. And if you don’t know what that feels like, imagine a cat dragging its claws across your skin. 

The Amount of Stretching Pain You Feel Depends on your Pain Tolerance

A scratching pain from tattooing isn’t usually intense, but it can hurt a lot when the tattoo artist works on the same area for an extended period.

It can also hurt when adding shading to intricate tattoos because multiple needles are often used instead of a single one. 

Stinging Pain

This type of pain is usually sharper and more intense than scratching pain. It feels like the needle poking deep into the skin, often described as getting stung by many tiny bees. 

While Not Severe Pain The Stinging Can Be an Irritation

Experiencing a stinging pain while getting a tattoo often feels enough to move away from the needle. And it’s very common when the tattoo artist is adding very fine details and outlines to your tattoo. 

And sometimes, even the usual scratching pain might feel like a stinging pain if you have thinner or tighter skin. 

Burning Pain

You usually experience burning pain from raw skin repeatedly pierced by the tattoo needle or when the tattoo artist is working on the same spot for a long time.

Burning is a Common Tattoo Pain Complaint

This type of pain is common when more fat is beneath the skin. And it feels like you have something very hot pressing on your skin for a long time. 

Although burning pain while getting a tattoo isn’t usually intense, it can be very irritating.

Vibrating Pain 

This type of pain is common when getting tattooed in bony areas of the body, like your ribs, ankles, elbows, and outer wrist.

Close to the Bone is One of the Most Painful Places for a Tattoo

It happens because some nerve endings around the bones pick up the vibration as the needle pierces the skin just above the bone. 

You’re likely to experience vibrating pain if you have less skin or fat over your bones. But thankfully, vibrating pain isn’t usually intense. 

Dull Pain

While most types of tattoo pain are either intense or irritating, dull pain is often described as the best kind of pain you can feel while getting a tattoo. Some adrenaline addicts think so too!

The Dull Ache of Tattoo Pain Can Be the Worst

It’s not actually a pain but a loss of sensation or feeling dullness while getting tattooed. It happens because your body starts producing adrenaline, which is a stress hormone, after you hear the loud buzzing of the tattoo gun and after the sharp prick as the needle hits your skin for the first time. 

Tattoo Pain – How Bad Does a Tattoo Hurt?

There’s no simple answer to that complex question. Because as it turns out, the pain you experience when getting inked is very subjective. 

Tattoos Hurt But The Intensity Depends on the Individual

So, while getting a tattoo generally always comes with pain, different people may experience tattoo pain at different levels. Some factors that can affect the pain you’re feeling during tattooing include:

Age and Weight

Age and Weight Both Affect Pain Experience

A study suggests that the older you are, the less sensitive to pain you will be. It means older adults could experience less pain from tattooing than younger people. However, older skin is more likely to bruise than younger skin. 

Weight can also affect the amount of pain you might experience from getting ink. People with very low body fat are usually more sensitive to tattoo pain. Conversely, heavier people with looser skin might also feel more pain. 

Psychological Expectations

The Power of the Mind Means People Can Feel Pain Differently

Another factor that could affect how tattooing hurts is what you expect as you go under the needle. In this case, the mechanics of pain tolerance could largely be mind over matter. So, if you get inked expecting a lot of excruciating pain, it can affect the pain you’re going to feel. 

According to some studies, people who feel anxious and catastrophize pain before a particular procedure usually feel higher pain levels than those with neutral pain expectations. 

Is It Your First Time Getting a Tattoo?

Whether you have gotten a tattoo before or not might also affect how much pain you’re can feel during tattooing.

Think Carefully When Getting Ink. Not Just About Pain But Also Tattoo Regret

According to research, people who have previously gotten tattoos have built a higher pain threshold than people who have never had a tattoo. Meaning you’re more likely to feel pain if it’s your first time getting a tattoo. 

Pro Tip: Do a simple pinch test! It can help you understand how much pain you might experience during a tattoo session. 

Again, the level of pain and discomfort you might feel when getting inked depends on several factors. But most importantly, most of it also depends on the body area you’re getting tattooed! 

Most Painful Spots to Get a Tattoo 

Different parts of your body have varying sensitivity levels when it comes to pain. 

Understand the Most Painful Locations Before You Choose to Get Ink

But as the universal rule: the most painful tattoo spots are those with the most nerve endings, least fast, and the thinner skin or tightest skin. Getting tattoos in bony areas of the body usually hurts a lot too. 

This serves as your tattoo pain chart if you’re concerned about how painful tattooing can hurt. So, think twice before getting a tattoo on any of these body parts. 

Hands and Fingers

Hand tattoos are very popular, but not because they don’t hurt! In fact, your hands are one of the most painful places to get a tattoo because it has a very thin layer of skin.

You Digits Are Painful Areas To Have Tattooed

There’s also an abundance of ligaments and muscles that can make the pain feel pretty bad whenever the tattoo needle pierces through the skin. Some people may also experience painful spasms after getting hand tattoos, especially if the needle hurts one of its many nerve endings. 

The same goes when getting finger tattoos, as it has very little to act as a buffer from the pain and discomfort. 

Wrist

The Inner Wrist is One of the Most Painful Places For a Tattoo
via Penn Medicine

Wrist tattoos, especially those in the inner wrist, are very high on the tattoo pain scale. It has very little fat, so the tattoo needle is likely to hit the area that’s mostly skin with many nerve endings and veins. And that can hurt pretty badly. 

Feet

Thin Skin Means Your Feet Are a Painful Tattoo Location

If you’re particularly concerned about tattoo pain, the feet are another bad location. The top of your foot is particularly sensitive because of the large groups of nerves located in it. Moreover, the skin is incredibly lean.

So, when getting a tattoo on your feet, you’re most likely to feel a sharp pain and uncomfortable vibration that goes right to your bones. 

Ankle

Like a foot tattoo, getting ankle tattoos usually comes with intense pain. There’s very little skin there, and it also sits right on the ankle bone. Besides the actual pain, the vibrations from the tattoo needle radiate to your ankle bone and sometimes even travel up to your shin bone. 

Neck and Spine

The Spin is one of the Incredibly Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

The spine area, including the back of your neck, is incredibly sensitive. And that’s why spine tattoos are among the most painful to get. The skin is very thin, but most importantly, the abundance of nerves running up and down the spinal cord makes tattooing even worse. 

Head

Tattoo Artists Advise Not to Get a Head Tattoo As Your First Inking

The head is one of the most painful places to get a tattoo. For one, it has an abundance of nerves but lacks a good amount of fat. And there is also the noise and vibration from the process of getting a head tattoo that isn’t only painful but scary. 

If you need a better comparison, the sensation feels like someone is drilling holes in your skull! So, essentially, getting a tattoo on the head doesn’t only include physical pain but also psychological pain. 

Lips

Lips Make for Very Painful Tattoos

If you’re thinking of getting lip tattoos, be prepared for how painful the process will be. It’s because of the abundance of nerves located on the lips. Additionally, lips are very prone to swelling and bleeding during and after getting your tattoo. 

While the lips may not seem like a great place for a tattoo, more and more women are electing to get them inked as a form of permanent makeup application. 

Neck and Throat

People Report Quite Severe Pain From Neck and Throat Tattoos
via TattooNOW

A throat and a neck tattoo can sometimes be impossible to endure. This is because large nerves and many of your important nerve endings are here. The skin layer in this area of your body is also very thin. And not to mention, some people develop adverse reactions from sustained pressure on their necks. 

All these can make throat and neck tattoos hurt more than you would expect. 

Armpits

There are so Many Never Endings in the Armpit That Make it a Very Painful Experience
via GHPThree

An armpit tattoo sounds unusual, but some people have successfully gotten them done. And only one thing’s for sure – armpit tattoos include so much pain! 

Why? It’s because the axillary nerve is located in the armpit. And not to mention, the skin around the armpit down to the inner bicep is super sensitive. 

Ribcage

A Rib Cage Tattoo Is Painful Due to Thin Skin and Bone Proximity
via Pulptastic

Getting a tattoo anywhere on your rib cage is particularly painful. That’s because you don’t have a significant amount of muscle, skin, and fat on that part of the body. Meaning you’re very likely to feel scratching pain from the needle more intensely. 

Another reason why rib cage tattoos are usually painful is that the nerves surrounding the ribs are particularly close to the nervous system. Add that to your ribs constantly moving every time you breathe, and it all heightens the pain. 

Elbow

The Tattoo Process for the Inner and Outer Elbow are Painful
via Inked Mag

Getting an elbow tattoo resembles the pain of rib tattoos for the same reasons. There’s very thin skin in your elbow, and it sits directly over the bone. And lastly, there is all sort of nerve endings in there. It makes the skin more sensitive and will likely make tattooing more painful with just the wrong touch. 

Upper Inner Thigh 

Does an Upper Inner Thigh Tattoo Hurt ... Yes It Does

In theory, the upper inner thigh should be the least painful place to get a tattoo. After all, it’s not close to the bone, and there’s plenty of muscle and flesh. 

But in reality, the insides of the thigh are about the most painful spots for a tattoo. That’s because it isn’t as exposed as other parts of the body. Hence, it’s a very sensitive spot.

Just bear in mind the healing process is even more painful than the tattooing process, as the upper inner thigh is likely to rub against the other leg. 

Chest

Tattoo Artists Report Different Pain is Experienced By Men and Women

Chest tattoo ideas are another popular choice for many people, even with the intense pain it usually comes with!

The thing is, while chest tattoo pieces look great, getting one can include lots of discomfort and pain unless you have lots of muscles or fat in the area. And even then, it’s best to prepare to endure aches during the session.

Especially if you’re going for full chest tattoos, which usually take several hours-long sessions! Remember, the parts tattooed in your sternum and collarbone, the T-zone in your chest, is usually the most painful. 

Just be thankful you didn’t get your rib cage tattooed.

Least Painful Places to Get a Tattoo 

Generally, the least painful tattoo spots are those with fewer nerve endings, most fat, and the thickest skin. 

If you’ve got a low pain threshold and are anxious about getting your tattoo, here are some parts considered the least painful to get inked. 

Forearm

The Outer Forearm Has Fewer Nerve Endings Making it an Ideal First Tattoo Location

Forearms are usually pleasant and plump and have very few nerve endings or sensitive bones. And that makes it less sensitive for tattooing. Outer forearm tattoos, especially, don’t hurt as much as getting tattoos in other parts of your body. 

Outer Bicep and Outer Shoulders

Fat and Muscle and Relatively Few Nerve Endings Make Outer Arms the Least Painful Area for Tattoos

Other reasonably pain-free parts of the body to get a tattoo on are the outer parts of your shoulders and biceps. These areas usually have thick skin, a bunch of muscles, and without many nerve endings.

Upper and Lower Back

Most Tattoo Artists Find the Upper Back an Ideal Canvas

Except for the spine, your back is a relatively good place to get inked if you don’t want to endure plenty of pain. Both the upper and lower back have the fewest nerve endings, and they are usually packed, which protects you from most of the discomfort.

Upper Outer Thigh

An Upper Outer Thigh Tattoo is Less Likely to Result in Severe Pain

If you want your thighs tattooed, pick the upper outer thigh portion. It’s the most incredible location to get inked as it’s usually fat-padded and has little nerve endings. 

Calves

Calves and Shin Tattoos Offer a Mix of Relatively Little and Sharp Pain Depending on Location

Generally, the least painful to get a tattoo is somewhere with a good amount of muscle, like a calf tattoo. This is because it’s usually packed with fat and muscle, and both act as trauma absorbers, making calf tattoos just uncomfortable instead of painful. 

Can You Make Getting a Tattoo Less Painful? 

Getting a tattoo will always be painful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to ease the discomfort even a bit and make the entire experience tolerable. 

Make Sure You Pick the Right Tattoo Parlor and Artist To Minimize The Tattoo Hurt

These tips to minimize tattoo pain are for people thinking of getting their first tattoo or for anybody concerned about the pain and discomfort that comes with tattooing. 

  • Choose a licensed and experienced tattoo artist. They usually take less time to get the tattoo done and are less likely to make mistakes too. 
  • Eat beforehand. You might be anxious, but not eating before the session will lower your blood sugar, increasing pain sensitivity. Eating beforehand will also prevent dizziness from hunger and nerves. 
  • Stay hydrated. It will moisturize your skin. Otherwise, tattooing on dry skin will hurt more. 
  • Don’t drink alcohol. Stay sober 24 hours before the session, as alcohol only dehydrates your body, thins your blood, and heightens your pain sensitivity. 
  • Ask your tattoo artist about skinnumbing cream. Your tattoo artist can recommend and apply a numbing cream on your skin before getting tattooed. 
  • Distract yourself. If you’re allowed to bring a friend, bring one and talk to them to distract yourself during the appointment. Or bring your headphones and listen to some music. 

And don’t forget to communicate with your tattoo artist. If the pain starts to feel too much, don’t hesitate to let your tattoo artist know. If you want to take a break, the artist can let you rest for a bit. 

Final Thoughts – What Is the Most Painful Place to Get a Tattoo?

Feeling nervous about the pain when getting tattooed? That’s pretty natural and understandable. Although you can’t make getting a tattoo “not painful,” you can take a few steps to prepare yourself and make the entire tattooing a more pleasant experience. 

Tattoos are great, but unfortunately, they are not pain-free. And if you’re worried about the pain, choose the least painful areas to get a tattoo! 

Lastly, ensuring that you give your new tattoo the best aftercare regimen guarantees that your tattoos are worthwhile, even with the pain!