The Most Painful Tattoo Spots on the Body to Avoid (or Pick)

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Getting a tattoo is a popular entry in bucket lists. Regardless of the culture and language, tattoos are highly sought after by a lot of people globally. However, there is one thing that keeps them from pushing through with it – it’s because of the pain. It is true that pain is subjective and every person’s tolerance against pain is different. Nevertheless, the pain is all worth it for an incredible tattoo.

Understanding the Tattoo Pain Chart

Every part of the body has a unique reaction to tattoo needles. This reaction depends on the formation beneath the skin and the primary nerve endings in the body.

To understand the effects of tattoo needling on the skin (including the painful sensation), you should be aware of the primary nerves found in the body. Remember that flesh and muscle protect these nerves, thus your body type also influences the degree of protection.

The most painful tattoo spots are located on body parts with thin skin and those that have nerve endings near the bones. The most painful tattoo spots include the ribs, back of the knees, hips, stomach, neck, head, face, ears, lips, fingers, toe, palms, along the spine, tops of the feet, armpits, elbow, kneecaps, inner biceps, ankles, shins, nipples, and groin area.

You should be familiar with the tattoo pain chart to get an idea of the locations of the most and least painful tattoo placements. The level of pain will also give you an understanding of how painful a particular area can be as compared to other parts.

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The Most Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

If you are thinking of getting inked, you should seriously consider the part where you would like to have it done. For many people, this decision depends on art; however, considering how painful it can be should also be worth considering. This is especially true if you have low tolerance for pain.

Depending on the placement, the level of pain will vary. We have determined the most painful tattoo spots.

Ribs

Rib tattoos are undoubtedly painful; some people have stated that getting a rib tattoo felt like something was poking them intensely while some said it was similar to a stabbing sensation. The ribs do not have that much skin, fat, and muscle which means that you will be more sensitive to the needle. The intense pain can penetrate the central nervous system since the nerves around the ribs are near the skin.

Another reason why it is very painful is that the ribs move each time you breathe. Thus, you will likely experience constant pain while getting a tattoo near or on the ribs.

The minimal fat and the abundance of nerves are not the only factors that make rib tattoos painful – the noise and vibration are also a bit frightening. But fret not, the final output will be worth it.

Back of Knees

The back of the knees is also especially painful for a tattoo. Getting a tattoo in this area is similar to the pain level of an armpit or elbow tattoo.

The pain due to the vibration of the needle can become severe since there is not enough muscle covering the kneecap. The back of the knees is similar to armpit in terms of sensitivity. Aside from the pain of tattooing, this area will also have a more difficult recovery than other areas.

Hips

The pelvic bone, which is seen in the region of the hip, is wrapped with a very sensitive skin layer. If you have minimal fat around the hips, placing a tattoo can be very painful. It is often described as an intense, sharp, and quivering pain.

Stomach

You are probably thinking that a tattoo on the stomach won’t be too painful due to all the fat and muscles – you are wrong, though. It is more challenging for the artist since your belly is constantly moving. The skin on the stomach is also very soft and bouncy which can make it more difficult for the needle to pierce. Thus, the artist will have to spread it out regularly before injecting the ink.

Neck

Getting a neck tattoo is not that simple; you will still need to choose which area of the neck would be best for a tattoo. The side of the neck will be the most painful since it only has minimal fat and muscle and lots of nerve endings. Furthermore, constant pressure on the neck can constrict breathing which can trigger a survival reaction.

The back portion of the neck is a less painful spot for a tattoo. This area has adequate amounts of muscle and fat.

Head, face, and ears

The head, face, and ears do not have enough muscle and skin to cushion the pressure of a needle. Aside from the pain, the fact that you can hear the procedure being done can make the entire process more intolerable.

Lips

Getting a tattoo on the lips is also very painful because there are many nerves found here. This particular part is also more prone to swelling and bleeding after the procedure, thus anyone should be very cautious when considering this part.

Furthermore, since lip tattoos are quite painful, most people opt to get tiny and simple tattoos designs for this area.

Fingers/Toes/Palms

Getting a tattoo on your fingers/toes/palms is painful for several reasons; they have noticeably thin skin which makes them relatively sensitive. 

These parts are also bony and packed with ligaments. The artist might have to redo the design several times since this part does not retain the ink well.

Along the Spine

Although the back is commonly one of the least painful places for a tattoo, the part near the spine is a special case. The spine is very tender to begin with; hence, getting a tattoo directly on it can cause extreme pain.

Top of Foot

A tattoo on top of the foot is a cool thing to have; however, the tattooing procedure can be difficult. This area is very bony; there are also few and thin muscles between the bones and the skin. The tops of the feet also contain nerve endings that makes it a sensitive area for a tattoo.

Armpit

Placing a tattoo on the armpits is quite tricky. Although there is enough shielding over the bone, the armpit contains a bunch of nerves that can cause extreme pain.

Although choosing armpit tattoos appears strange, some people still choose it. The armpits have thin, soft skin which is near the bone. It is very painful to tattoo since the axillary nerve and the glands are found in this part.

The pain can become severe due to the vibrations of the needle. If you are already sensitive in this part even before the procedure, you will most likely have difficulties tolerating the pain during the session.

Moreover, the process of healing can be very tedious; for instance, you cannot apply any kind of deodorant. Also, you will have to raise your arms a little to prevent sweating that might destroy the tattoo.

Elbow/Kneecap

We all know that the elbow and kneecap are delicate and sensitive areas; because bumping these parts into stuff can cause sudden nerve pain. Since there is no large muscle between the skin and bone, tattooing these areas can be quite painful.

Without any cushioning between the bone and the needle, you will undoubtedly feel the needle pushing against the bone and poked into the skin. The vibrations will also stimulate a reaction from the ulnar nerve – this is the nerve responsible for the arm pain when you strike the “funny bone.”

Inner Bicep

The pain levels in the inner biceps depends on the amount of muscle you have. The skin on the inner arm is also very soft and the muscles are fragile. Continuous hours of needle poking will heighten the pain during a tattoo session.

An inner bicep tattoo will also take some time to recover and heal compared to other parts of the body. Generally, arm tattoos are more tolerable thus it is a common placement for tattoos.

Ankle

Since the ankle is another bony part of the body, there is no doubt that it can be a very painful place for a tattoo (although not the worst).

The inside and the outside of the ankle (although both are painful placements) still has differences in terms of pain. However, the position of the tattoo in relation to the ankle bone shall determine this variation in pain. 

A tattoo positioned just over or below the bone will cause less pain compared to a tattoo on top of the bone. Another thing to consider is that this part can be agonizing for some but tolerable or even painless for others; thus it depends on the tolerance of the person.

Shin

Similar to the calf, getting a tattoo on the shin is never fun. The skin on this part is very thin and any kind of canvas shall settle over the bone, creating those agonizing vibrations caused by the needle to spread to your leg.

Nipples

Nipples are considered to be one of the highly sensitive parts of the human body. Although they are dominantly muscle, they also have plenty of nerve endings which make them very sensitive and painful for tattoos.

Groin Area

If the idea of getting a tattoo on the groin area already makes you uncomfortable, then you perceived it correctly.

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Getting inked on the testicles or penis is not recommended for the faint of heart. The groin is packed with nerve ending thus this area is highly delicate and sensitive. It is also attached to different lymph nodes, which is another factor for increasing the severity of the pain.

The groin is certainly not the place you should choose if you are a beginner. The process of healing also requires you to avoid the area from getting wet for several weeks since which will make you susceptible to infections (bacteria can thrive due to water).

Least Painful Place to Get a Tattoo

Now that you know the most painful places for a tattoo, it is time for you to know more about the least painful locations (you are surely wondering about this too, right?).

Upper Outer Thigh

The upper outer thigh is one of the parts of the body where you will experience the least pain. The kind of pain felt here is like a non-sharp background pain.

Forearm

Getting a forearm tattoo causes minimal pain compared to other parts of the body due to thicker skin, fewer nerve endings, and adequate muscle fat. This will help minimize the vibrations of the needle, thus arm tattoos are not that painful.

Outer Shoulders

The outer shoulders are the usual part of the body where most people opt to get their very first tattoo since these are considered to be one of the least painful places.Again, the reason behind this is that there are fewer nerve endings in these places and, there is sufficient flesh to offer protection against the needles.

Outer Bicep

The outer bicep has plenty of muscles and has thick skin, making it less sensitive to pain.

Calves

The back part of the lower leg (over the ankle and under the knee) is an ideal part for tattoos. The calves do not have a lot of nerve endings and it is located far from the shin bone.

Upper and Lower Back

Generally, the back is not a very agonizing spot for a tattoo. If you have a body type that is slimmer than average, you may experience more pain on the spinal column and the shoulder blades.

Factors that Affect Pain

There are several factors that influence pain aside from the placement itself:

1. Age 

Age is an essential factor that affects the level of pain. There is a big distinction between getting a tattoo at the age of 20 versus getting a tattoo at the age of 30. You will most likely be able to endure a 10-hour session if you are young. However, individual variations are still present. Older skins are also more prone to bruises or pain as opposed to the younger skin.

2. Body Type

The more muscular and bigger a person is, the greater the pain – these individuals typically feel more pain compared to those who are slim.

3. Skin Sensitivity

Getting inked can be problematic if you have sensitive skin. Sensitive skin is more likely to get bruised, swell, and bleed.

4. Mental readiness

If you are not mentally ready or you get anxious because of the needles or blood, the kind of pain you will feel will likely be overpowering.

5. Experience

People who have experienced getting a tattoo before are likely to feel minimal pain as compared to those who are getting a tattoo for the first time.

6. Health concerns

Health concerns such as blood-related problems and blood pressure issues can affect the process of tattooing; it becomes more painful.

Nevertheless, the good thing is that you can initiate some steps to reduce and control the pain.

What Tattoo Pain Feels Like

Be prepared for the pain, especially if you fancy a tattoo with a complicated design. Tattoos are not everyone’s cup of tea. If you hear someone saying that a little heart-shaped tattoo on the finger is not painful, it can mean that their pain tolerance is high. Your tolerance may not be the same as that person.

Tattoos are painful whatever the case. Tattoos are already being practiced in the ancients; it is hard to imagine how the people managed to deal with the pain without pain relievers and numbing creams.

Some teenagers and young adults got tattoos that signify their masculinity; however, did the sessions really went smooth and painless? Some tattoos on the bodies of aficionados are highly intricate and it might seem that these tattoos were easily acquired. That’s not really the case though.

Before deciding to get a tattoo, you must be aware of several things. There is a connection between the amount of pain you will undergo and the placement of the tattoo. Not all kinds of tattoos have a similar level of pain and not everyone who decides to get a tattoo will feel the same pain.

Getting a tattoo is more about the irritation, and not just physical pain. Other factors need to be considered when getting inked because even anxiety and the condition of your mind can reduce or heighten the pain. Many people may experience a significant deal of pain depending on the tattoo placement, but in actuality, it could be far less than you expect it to be. 

Regardless, you must study the pain chart and prepare your mind for the pain. Your first experience might not be nice, but you will eventually get used to all the poking and digging. Certainly, the sight of the plasma and blood draining is not pleasant, but you should always be ready for this before getting an appointment.

Certainly, everyone does not want needles digging and poking his/her skin; however, with good aftercare, you will eventually recover it. If you find a professional artist and do your homework, the pain will surely be worth it at the end. 

Although some tattoos only feels a bit itchy and painful, others are more severe. However, this could vary from each person.

The technique applied by the tattoo artist can also have a significant impact on the extent of discomfort that you will encounter. Some tattoo artists are gifted with a light hand, while others are using great pressure as they pierce the needle into the skin.

Minimizing the Pain

So, what can you do to minimize the pain before, during, and after the procedure? Simply follow the following tips:

  1. See to it that you get enough rest and sleep before the day of your appointment. A long night’s sleep will give you comfort and prepare your body for the tattoo session. You will also feel less troubled and more relaxed if you get enough rest.
  2. Do not go on a procedure with an empty stomach.
  3. Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated during the entire process.
  4. Refrain from getting inked while you still have your menstruation since you will feel more tender and weaker during this time.
  5. Do not get inked if you are drunk or if you are experiencing a terrible hangover. Alcohol dilutes your blood and can therefore trigger bruising and bleeding.
  6. Bring your earphones or eat candy. Food and music can help divert your attention.
  7. Bring a companion along, but do not bring a lot of people. Choose someone you trust. Choose someone who can encourage you.
  8. Make sure to get a certified and professional tattoo artist.
  9. Request for breaks from your tattoo artist to give you some time to breathe.
  10. Request numbing creams from your tattoo artist. Applying these creams can lessen the pain.
  11. Do not forget to follow the aftercare instructions given to you by the tattoo artist to prevent any aggravations. Tattoos need time and proper care to heal.
  12. Be certain about your will to get inked. See to it that you are fully dedicated to getting inked. If you are hesitant about it, you will feel doubtful about the procedure and this can trigger more pain.

Factors to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo

There are several things to consider before getting a tattoo. You should familiarize yourself with the following things:

1. Tattoos are painful

Getting inked is painful. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or only has an inch of a tattoo placed on the wrist. The procedure involves multiple punctures of needles to get the ink into the skin.

The larger the tattoo and the more intricate the style, the more painful it will be. The placement of the tattoo is another essential factor when considering the level of pain. A tattoo will cause pain. Expect to see blood. So, if you are scared of blood or needles or you have a low tolerance for pain, it is recommended that you spend more time pondering about your decision.

2. Design

Do not hurry when choosing a design for your tattoo. You may end up regretting it as soon as the artist is done with the artwork. Carefully study your tattoo design; you may refer to Google to get ideas. You can also get the assistance of your tattoo artist to help you in choosing a design. This is helpful especially if you prefer a personal design.

3. Placement of the tattoo

Choosing the placement of your tattoo comes hand in hand with the design. Some designs are most suited for certain parts of the body. Also, the size of the tattoo is a consideration when choosing an area for the tattoo.

4. Reasons for having a tattoo

There are numerous reasons why a lot of people choose to get a tattoo. Some get inked because they recognize it as art. Others want to demonstrate their infatuation or love. Some opt to get tattooed to blatantly demonstrate rebellion.

Before you decide to get a tattoo, reflect about why you want to do it. You do not need an emotional or philosophical reason for it, but just make sure that you can live with it.

5. Timing

You are free to approach the artist anytime you wish to get inked. However, there are recommended seasons for a tattoo session. The best season for getting inked is during the winter or fall – when people commonly wear more clothes when going outdoors. This will protect a newly placed tattoo from the sun (which can ruin a newly placed tattoo).

Final Thoughts

A tattoo can represent your feelings and thoughts; hence, the pain will definitely be worth it. Nevertheless, you must consider the ideas discussed in this article to help you prepare (physically and mentally) for the tattoo session. 

It is also important to consider your pain tolerance when deciding for the placement of your tattoo. You would certainly regret coming unprepared and getting just a half-done tattoo. Therefore, you should reflect on the capability of your mind and body; and make a proper judgment based on your capability.

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