The most commonly asked question we get here at North York Ink from clients who have never gotten a tattoo before is, “Does it hurt?”
The short answer is yes, tattoos hurt.
There’s no such thing as a painless tattoo!
Anyone who tells you differently is probably the type of person that sleeps with their eyes open – or someone who has no idea wtf they are talking about.
The long answer is yes, tattoos hurt, but the level of pain you experience when getting a tattoo often depends on the placement of the tattoo on your body.
Think of it like this, if I walked up to you and gave you a paper cut on the back of your hand, that would suck – but if I gave you the same size paper cut down the webs of your fingers this time, you would cry like a baby and curse my existence.
Disclaimer: Here at North York Ink, we do not administer papercuts.
Pain and Placement: Understanding the Relationship between Tattoos and Body Parts
The reason behind tattoos hurting more or less on certain areas of the body than others comes down to the amount of fat and nerve endings in that particular part of the body.
The least painful places to get tattooed are those with the fattest, fewest nerve endings, and thickest skin.
The most painful places to get tattooed are those with the least fat, most nerve endings, and thinnest skin. Bony areas like the ribs and spine usually hurt more.
Before getting a tattoo it is important to understand your own pain tolerance. Everyone is different.
Some people can sleep through 2-hour sessions, while others might faint 5 minutes into their session.
No shade, it’s just the way it goes.
Understanding the amount of pain your body can tolerate may not come naturally as you can only understand how much pain you can take when you’ve had to endure pain, sort of a catch-22.
That is why for many of our first-time clients getting their first tattoos, we try to talk them out of getting tattooed on certain areas of the body and often suggest decreasing the design sizes based on this principle alone.
After years of experience getting tattoos and tattooing our beloved clients, we have compiled a list of the most painful places (in our opinion!) to get tattooed:
Going back to our previous point discussing the correlation between painful areas and the fat percentage of a certain area along with nerve endings and thickness of the skin.
Rib cage tattoos take the cake for one of the most painful areas to get tattooed due to the thin layer of skin and the proximity to the bone.
The spine is another area that can be extremely painful to get tattooed due to the many nerve endings located on the spine and the proximity to the bone.
Fun fact about getting a tattoo on the spine – though the tattoo may be on the spine itself, the pain can be felt throughout all of the muscles in your back, increasing in intensity the lower down the back you go.
The inner thigh is one of those areas on your body that you don’t really give too much thought.
But when you do, one of the first things that come to mind is how sensitive of an area it is.
Your inner thigh, like most of the other painful areas to get tattooed, comes equipped with thin skin and many nerve endings.
This area can be especially painful for women due to the proximity to the reproductive organs.
The foot, similar to the hand, which we will talk about shortly, is a bony area with thin skin and many nerve endings, making it a very painful area to get tattooed.
Another important note, not having anything to do with the level of pain really, is that due to the uneven composition of the foot, and its poor healing results, most artists will decline to tattoo the foot.
Tattooing the scalp or the top of the head can be extremely painful, again due to the many nerve endings in this area.
The skin on your head is the thinnest making it more likely to bleed than on most other areas of your body.
Your head is also completely surrounded by the bone of your skull.
Similar to spine tattoos, the pain from a head tattoo can be felt in the surrounding muscles and can be especially intense near the temples.
If you’re crazy enough to get an armpit tattoo then you likely are the type of person that sleeps with your eyes open.
No shade, mad respect. For the rest of the population, armpit tattoos can be an excruciatingly painful yet somewhat ‘ticklish’ experience due to the presence of the axillary nerve.
The axillary nerve is the main nerve going up and down your arm and is connected to many nerve endings in your armpit, making your armpit sensitive to pain.
Outer and Inner Elbow
The outer elbow, much like many other placements on this list, is a bony area with thin skin and many nerve endings.
The inner elbow, or the ‘pit’ or ‘ditch’ as we like to call it in the tattoo community, has two of the three main nerves, so the pain can be especially intense on the inner elbow.
Though we won’t get into it in this article, all pits or ditches are painful, this includes; back of the knee
Your hands, similar to the foot we covered earlier, are covered in a thin layer of skin with very little fat to lessen the pain of getting a tattoo.
The hands are also home to a high concentration of sensory nerves, which control our perception of pain. The pain can be especially intense near the knuckles.
Neck tattoos are special in that the pain differs from the back of the neck to the front of the neck.
The front of the neck has a thinner layer of skin and very little muscle mass. Whereas the muscles in the back of your neck are connected to your back.
These muscles are called trapezius muscles.
The trapezius muscle is a large surface muscle that spans from the base of the skull down the cervical spine and into the lower thoracic spine (mid back), as well as out to the shoulder blade.
The pain can be especially intense near the spine and the base of the skull.
Your knees, similar to your elbows, are composed of the same thin layer of skin and exposure to nerve endings.
Also, similar to the elbow and pretty much every joint, your knees are constantly in use, which can cause discomfort during the healing process.
What About Tattoo Numbing Cream?
Even though there’s no such thing as a painless tattoo, we get that the pain can be a bit of a buzzkill.
So that’s where tattoo numbing cream comes in.
Now, I’m not saying it’s a magic potion that will make everything rainbows and butterflies, but its numbing effects can definitely take the edge off.
Just remember that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so what works for one person may not be as effective for another.
Preparing for the Pain: Tips for a Successful and Enjoyable Tattoo Experience
- Do your research: Before getting inked, it’s important to choose a reputable studio and tattoo artists who will work with you to create a design you love. Take the time to read reviews and check out their portfolio to ensure they are the right fit for you.
- Start small: If you’re nervous about the pain, consider starting with a small tattoo in a less sensitive area of the body to get a sense of what to expect. You can always work your way up to larger designs once you feel more comfortable.
- Know that pain is subjective: Keep in mind that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so what is painful for one person may not be as painful for another. Try not to compare your experience to others and focus on what feels manageable for you.
- Communicate with your artist: Don’t be afraid to speak up during your tattoo session and let your artist know if you’re experiencing discomfort during the tattoo process. They may be able to adjust their technique or offer suggestions for managing the pain.
Painful but Worth It
So there you have it, folks!
Getting a tattoo hurts, but the level of pain varies depending on the placement of the tattoo on your body.
When getting your first tattoo, it may be a good idea to start small and choose a less painful area to get inked.
And remember, tattoo ink is a foreign substance, so proper aftercare is important for a healing tattoo.
So, get inked wisely and enjoy the hours of tattooing and the memories that come with it!
For more information on tattoos, tattoo-related topics, or just overall good tattoo content – check us out on Instagram, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (647) 501 8222!
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