Tattoo Pain Chart: How Much Will It Hurt?

If you have had your eye on a certain tattoo for quite some time, then brace yourself for some pain. Tattoos are not everyone’s cup-of-tea, and if someone tells you that it did not hurt to get a tiny heart needled onto their finger, their pain tolerance may be different from yours.

Let us establish one thing, tattoos hurt. There are no ifs or buts involved in this situation. People have been practicing the tattoo culture from ages when the remote concept of anesthesia wasn’t even a thought.

For some, even young adults and teenagers tattoos have signified coming of age or there entrance into manhood, but have these experiences been painless? No. You will come across some of the most elaborate tattoos, displaying a story on the bodies of tattoo enthusiasts.  This picture may give you the impression that this may be not as painful as it is hyped to be, but if you trust anything the internet says, then tattoo pain is real.

Celebrities and influencers are a huge part of the tattoo culture, fans and followers will try to get something similar done just to show appreciation for a specific celebrity. Where some parts of the body were once not the most tattoo-able places, anything is possible today with technology playing a vast role in the needling procedure.

Before getting a tattoo, you need to be aware of a few things. There is a relation of the amount of agony you will suffer and the location of the tattoo. Not all tattoos because the same degree of pain and not all people similarly feel pain.

However, you can go through a pain chart and prepare your mind for the potential pain you may suffer. Your first tattoo experience may not be that pleasant, but you will get used to the jabbing and poke eventually. Of course, the blood and plasma oozing from the wounds do not paint an appealing picture, so prepare yourself beforehand for this experience.

Some tattoo enthusiasts will argue that tattoos do not hurt as much as you’d think, but the truth is that it depends on your pain threshold. Scurrying through the web looking for information regarding the placement and painfulness of tattoos certainly helps

A tattoo pain chart


Each part of the body reacts differently to the piercing needle of a tattoo artist. This can depend on the structure underneath the skin or the major nerve endings throughout the body. The most painful parts of getting tattooed are

  • The groin
  • The Elbow
  • The arm Pits
  • The spine area
  • The inner arm
  • sternum
  • Ankle
  • Knee
  • Thighs
  • Under-boob

To understand the structural effects of tattoo needling into the flesh and the pain associated with it you need to take a look at the major nerves in the body. Keep in mind that muscle and flesh cover these major nerves and your body type also affects this.

Where will you feel it the most

If you were to ask 15 different individuals regarding the most painful place to get a tattoo, you would likely get 15 different answers. There is only so much anatomy and science involved in this. The true sensation can only depend on the threshold of pain for each going under the needle.

Tattoos may be considered one of the most common forms of body modification. This is a rapidly growing trend, and you do not have to go overboard with the ink necessarily. A simple word embedded on your wrist or finger can suffice as long as it satisfies you.

To help you choose the perfect location for your tattoo, we have compiled a list of placements that can be classified as painful or otherwise.

1. Near or on the rib cage

Tattoo experts and enthusiasts who are covered in tattoos will admit that this is one of the most painful placements for a tattoo. Even after getting inked several times you are not ready for the pain that comes with a tattoo placed here. This heightened sense of pain can be attributed to the fact that this location does not contain enough cushions to cushion the prodding of the needle. It is closer to the bone there is hardly any fat and muscle around here and relatively less skin on your ribs.

You will feel the force of a blunt metal object trying to create tiny cuts on your skin. Whereas in truth these are just needle continuously jabbing away at your skin surface. This area is close to the central nerves system, which in simpler terms means that there are several major nerves in this area that are not cushioned by flesh or muscle.

Another reason for this placement to hurt is that with every breath the ribs move a little. This can renew the pain every time the needle touches the surface rather than getting used to the pain after a few probes like in other areas.

The worst part of this tattoo comes after the process is done with. For most tattoos, the pain subsides in an hour or two reducing to irritation and discomfort. But for this particular placement, the pain seems to persist and stay much longer.

In some cases, individuals may also experience continuous pain for a total of six hours and upwards.

2. The head and surrounding

This is considered one of the spots which can turn a rather modest person into a squealing person or a swearing one. The abundance of nerves and negligible fat makes it one of the highest pain points for tattoos. Some clients even complain that the feeling is that of the skull being drilled. To get this tattoo, tattoo artists suggest getting over the psychological and physical pain barrier.

3. Inner part of the thigh

Although this area contains the cushion required to reduce the pain from the needle, yet this is one of the most painful places to get a tattoo. This can in most cases be attributed to the fact that it likely rubs against the leg and is not exposed enough to heal painlessly.

4. The inner part of the upper arm near the elbow

Now, this is something you will remember and warn others about. This location is home to two of the three major nerve endings in the body. It will hurt like hell. Each time a nerve is touched, you will feel actual pain through the length of your arm. In short, you will feel like you are getting a tattoo on your entire arm.

5. The feet

This is one of the most delicate areas to get tattooed. Feet hardly contain any muscle or fat and a pure flesh covering bone directly. The nerves going through this area are comparatively exposed, and the sharp sensation of the needle piercing through flesh can be felt to the bone. There is hardly anything to provide a cushion to the probing needle.

6. Inner parts of the wrist

If you have had a good look at your wrists, you probably know that there are nerves present here. There isn’t much flesh and muscle to provide padding for the needle. Most people choose words and designs that require constant contact of the needle with the flesh, and this is not the most fun experience.

7. The fingers and hands

This is one of the trendiest places to get a tattoo on. You will find various celebrities endorsing this style, and most people get one here for aesthetic reasons. But, even the tiniest designs placed here can hurt a lot. Hands are full of nerves as they are the major part of the body used to feel. This also heightens the feeling of pain from the tattoo needle. There is hardly any flesh covering the nerves and bones in the hands which increases the pain quite a bit.

8. Arm Pits

There are many reasons why anyone would want to get their armpit tattoo. Nevertheless, this is one of the most painful experiences that you can put yourself through.             This is the spot where the auxiliary nerved is placed. Moreover, there are several other glands present in this area. This is also not the ideal location for the healing process, and the pain takes a significant amount of time to subside.

9. Outer area of the arm

This is a relatively easier place to get a tattoo on. The outer part of the arm has more flesh and is not as close to the nerves as the inner part. If you want to flaunt this tattoo around, this is the perfect spot for you. Of course, you will feel the discomfort of needles pushing into your skin, but nothing will prompt you to pull your hair out. The pain also subsides quickly after the procedure, and it heals quickly as well.

10. Calf sides

The area above the ankle and under the knee is one of the ideal places to get a tattoo if you are low on the pain tolerance scale. The side of the calf muscle is relatively painless as it is also away from the shin bone. There are almost no nerve endings on the sides of the calves, but if you movebackward closer to the back of the knee, it will become a painful experience.

Which spots can be classified as the most sensitive ones?

Certain parts of the body contain clusters of nerves or nerve endings; these parts can be considered the most sensitive areas of pain. Also, the bonier areas are likely to be affected more by the needle than other areas. The throat, nipples, genitals, solar plexus, face, and hands can be classified as the parts with clusters of nerves.

The wrists, ankles, feet, collarbone, spine, ribs, elbows, kneecaps and feet are some of the bonier areas that are prone to increased pain reception.

Which spots are the least painful ones?

Well, your buttocks are the prime spot for a painless or relatively painless tattoo. Most people do not want a tattoo here so we will move on to the places where you would like to get one. The thighs, the forearm, and calves can be considered suitable for people with lower pain tolerance.

These areas contain a lot of cushion and very few to almost no nerve endings. However, the stinging and burning sensation in these areas is quite high. Some might just consider getting inked onto a bonier area just for this sole reason. After all, no one likes to feel the burning sensation on their skin especially if they might not be able to show it off.

Sensitive nerves through the body

You can perform a thorough search regarding the placement of these nerves and how well they can receive pain. Following are the names of these nerves.

  • The small occipital nerve
  • Superficial cervical
  • Middle trunk
  • Lateral cord
  • Posterior cord
  • Musculocutaneous
  • Intercostal
  • Medial Brachial cutaneous
  • Ulnar
  • Ilio-hypogastric
  • Obturator
  • Lateral Femoral cutaneous
  • Sciatic
  • Common Peroneal
  • Superficial Peroneal
  • Deep peroneal
  • Tibial
  • Anterior cutaneous
  • Saphenous
  • Deep Branch
  • Medial Antebrachial Cutaneous
  • Median
  • Medial Cord
  • Radial
  • Suprascapular
  • Inferior trunk
  • Superior Trunk
  • Great Auricular

These are some of the major nerves that are distributed throughout the body.

How much would a tattoo hurt?

Getting inked may be more of an irritation than actual painful experience. Several factors come into play when getting a tattoo, even your state of mind and anxiety can accelerate or reduce the pain.  Most people may get a huge deal regarding the pain attached to a specific placement, in reality, it may be far less than portrayed.

Of course, no one like needles jabbing and prodding the tissue through the surface of the skin but, with a little resilience and proper aftercare, you’ll get over it in no time. If you choose a professional tattoo artist and do your homework, there is a large chance that the pain will be worth it.

While some tattoo spots the only sting and itches a little, others may prompt you to tear out your hair. But, this varies person to person, for example, if one of your friends got a finger tattoo and informed you that it wasn’t “that” painful, but you may go through this differently.

The technique used by your tattoo artist also plays a role in the amount of discomfort you feel. Some artists are light-handed, and some use heavy pressure while applying the needle to skin.

What to do before getting inked

There are a few things you should know and do before you enter the tattoo parlor. This includes eating a proper meal beforehand. Get an appointment and try to eat at least two hours before you get inked. If you are suffering from a medical condition then, it is imperative that you should get a go-ahead from your physician.

Talk to your tattoo artist and describe your pain tolerance to get a professional recommendation regarding the placement of the tattoo.

The process feels like?

Getting inked is a completely different experience across different parts of the body. Some parts are quite easier and less painful to get a tattoo on than others. This experience also depends on the “cushion” that a specific placement has. Cushion refers to the amount of skin and muscle that is present on a particular surface.

The areas closer to the rib cage do not have much cushion whereas areas such as the thighs are meatier and have more muscle and fat. Moreover, the parts where the major nerves run can also be relatively more painful than others.

For a thicker area such as the thigh, you will feel like a needle is being dragged across your skin. This sensation is pretty superficial as the tattoo needle does not dig far into the skin as an injection would. This can be compared to a scratch from an animal’s claw or a sting from a bee. You will feel the sharpness of the fine needle prodding through your skin.

You will also feel a burning sensation as during the process the metal needle is constantly moving forwards and backward creating a design. This causes friction which leads to heat emission, thus the burning sensation. This also depends on how elaborate your tattoo is and how much detail goes into that specific design.

For bonier areas, you may feel more pain. The sensation can be compared to a dull metal object trying to cut into your skin. As you come closer to the areas that contain major nerves, you will experience the discomfort and pain rising.



Bottom Line

It is advised that you speak to the tattoo artist first regarding the best placement of your tattoo. If you have a specific location in mind, stay determined to get through this ordeal.