When it comes to getting a tattoo, most people will have a preconceived idea of what they want to get and where they want to get it, weeks before their appointment. Given the permanency of tattoos, it’s understandable that aesthetic is inevitably the primary consideration – but what about the tattoo pain scale?
Understanding the common tattoo pain areas is definitely something to note prior to your appointment to avoid any kind of unpleasant surprises on the day. We’d hate to see anyone have to pull the pin half way through their inking because the pain was too unbearable.
To save you the trouble, here’s a list of the most and least painful places to get a tattoo.
Most painful places to get a tattoo
The nature of tattooing in the repeated piercing of the skin means that getting inked is pain inducing to an extent. And while everyone will experience different levels of pain depending on their pain threshold and other factors such as sex, generally the most painful places to get a tattoo are the areas close to bones or where multiple nerve endings rest.
There is no evidence-based explanation to suggest that certain areas of the body hurt more than others, however, based on our experience in the industry, both as artists and as victims of getting inked, these are the spiciest places to get tattooed.
Condemned by many as the most painful place to get a tattoo, the armpit area is repeatedly reported as an uncomfortable experience – so much so that tattoo artists now advise against armpit tattoos.
The reason the pain in the armpit area is so heightened is because of the nerves that run through it, namely the axillary nerve. The axillary nerve is connected to multiple nerve endings in the armpit, making it an area particularly sensitive to pain.
Behind the knee
In a very similar way to the armpit, the back of our knees carry many nerve endings that join our muscles to joints, making it a very painful place to get a tattoo.
The rib cage tattoo pain scale is also quite severe as the skin around our ribs is very thin and extremely close to the bones, making each impression of the needle unpleasant.
Ankles, shins, knees and elbows
Just like the ribcage, our ankles, shins, knees and elbows are bones that rest beneath thin layers of skin making the vibrations of the tattoo needle extremely painful.
Head, face, and ears
Our heads contain an abundance of nerve endings that become immediately irritated by the process of getting inked. Not only this but there’s not a lot of fat on our heads to cushion the tattoo needle, and some people have reported that the noise and the vibration of the needle create both a psychologically and physically uncomfortable experience.
Groin and inner thighs
In theory, the inner thigh is an area that should be a reasonably pain free place to get a tattoo because there’s a lot of skin and it’s far from the bone. However, the groin consists of many nerve endings that make tattooing this area quite painful. Some also say that the healing process is more painful than other areas because the thigh is likely to rub against the other leg quite frequently.
Hands, fingers, feet, and toes
Getting inked in these boney parts of our body is again painful for the lack of skin around the area. Another consequence of this means that the ink struggles to stick to these areas, more often than not resulting in the artist needing to go over the design multiple times.
The inner bicep is known as another tattoo pain area as a result of the soft and loose skin around the muscle. It also carries many nerve endings that when pinched by the tattoo needle, cause pain to run down the entire arm, not just the pressure point of where the tattoo is being drawn.
Least painful places to get a tattoo
Generally speaking, the areas of the body that are likely to cause the least amount of pain when getting inked tend to be the areas that are cushioned by fat, where the skin is tight and where fewer nerve endings can be found.
It’s likely that you’ll still feel the pinch of the needle in these areas, however, their surrounding environment ultimately makes for a more comfortable experience.
The upper thigh and the upper outer thigh have everything that aids comfort levels when getting inked; they are well padded with fat, they have fewer nerve endings, and they’re far from any bones, making for a lower tattoo pain scale.
Our forearms are surrounded by muscle and protected by a thick layer of skin making it one of the least painful places to get a tattoo.
The outer shoulder area is a popular spot for many first-timers as there is a lot of flesh and few nerve endings resulting in a reasonably low level of pain.
Because the flesh on the outside of the arm isn’t as close to the main nerves that run through the arm, the outer bicep makes for a less painful place to get a tattoo.
Generally speaking, the area between the ankle and the back of the knee is among the least painful places to get a tattoo as there is a significant amount of muscle protected by tight skin.
Upper and lower back
The upper and lower parts of our back are also one of the least painful places to get a tattoo because the skin is thick. The closer to the spine you get, you’ll find some more intense discomfort as you edge towards the nerve endings, but generally speaking, the back remains a low level tattoo pain area.