The Most Painful Places to Get Tattoos & How to Deal With It

John Dietrich

When it comes to getting a tattoo, there’s usually some level of pain involved. It’s all part of the experience. But everyone has their own pain tolerance level, so pain felt varies from person to person. Reading this, you’re probably interested in which parts of your body feel more pain relative to others while getting inked. Below, we review all of the factors involved in the potential pain experienced while getting a tattoo.

General Rules

In general, the areas that will hurt the most are the areas of the body which have more nerve endings. Places like the palm of your hand and your fingers are very sensitive, so getting tattooed here is more painful.

Getting tattooed in places where the bone is closer to the skin is also more painful. That’s why you’ll hear that getting a tattoo on your ankle or ribs is a very unpleasant experience. Hence, getting tattooed over fattier areas will hurt much less.

Dealing with the Pain

So how should you go about dealing with the pain? Some people think to take painkillers before their appointment. But since most painkillers are blood thinners, and since getting a tattoo induces bleeding, this isn’t a great idea. If you’re in some serious discomfort, you tattoo artist can put some numbing agent over the area to help mitigate the pain.

For many clients, the pain of the needle itself isn’t the problem. The main issue is the duration of low level pain. Appointments can last longer than 8 hours, so it’s important to show up well rested, hydrated, and fed. This will help you cope with the pain better.

The Tattooing Technique

The technique that your tattoo artist uses will affect the kind of pain that you feel. If your artist is doing linework or dotwork, it will be easier to manage because there are fewer needles being inserted into your skin, and your artist will only go over each section once or twice. Alternatively, having an area filled solid with ink will be more painful because more needles are used and more passes are required.

Taking into account all of these factors, we’ve come up with a list of the least to most painful spots to get inked. Check out our infographic below:

Most Painful Places to Get Tattooed Infographic

Chest: as an area with less fat, taut skin, and bone, the chest can be pretty painful.

Upper Back: the same goes for the upper back- here, there’s a lot of bone and only a thin layer of skin.

Inner Bicep: Lee, 30, has over ten tattoos, but the worst for him was his inner bicep: “None of them were peachy, but the worst for me was the inner bicep, as it got closer to the armpit.”

Wrist: Claire, 28, has 3 tattoos- one on the back of her neck, one on her ankle, and one on her wrist. “My wrist tattoo was the most painful. It hurt more as it got closer to the tendons. It felt like something raw was being poked at.”

Knees and Elbows: though the elbows might seem like a good place to get inked since there aren’t many nerve endings, the bone is very close to the skin in this spot.
Hands and Feet: specifically on the palm and the ankle

Face: as you might have guessed, your face is one of the most sensitive areas on your whole body.

Butt: Brittany, 30, who has a full sleeve and several leg tattoos found that one in particular was the most excruciating. “The most painful tattoo experience I had was the tattoo on my behind. It felt like a towel was being repeatedly snapped in a very narrow area.”

Ribs: Your ribs have a lot of bone and very tight skin, making them an especially painful spot to get a tattoo.

Nipples: The nipples are a very sensitive area that happens to be in the centre of a bony area.

Eyelids: Other than the difficulty of tattooing over eyelids, this spot is also particularly painful.

Of course, this list isn’t the final say. Remember that each person has their own unique level of pain tolerance, and factors like the length of your appointment as well as level of hydration can significantly impact how comfortable you are throughout. Come to your appointment well prepared by ensuring that you sleep, eat, and drink enough, and don’t be scared to ask your artist for what you need. If you know of any other techniques for dealing with the pain of a tattoo, let us know about them in the comment section below!

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