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Top 10 Most Painful Places To Get A Tattoo

Blog Post cover for top 10 most painful places to get a tattoo

One of the most common questions we get asked is "What's the most painful place to get a tattoo?" Getting a tattoo is always a mixture of excitement and nerves, especially if you're a first-timer. If you're anxious about the pain aspect of getting tattoos, you would be running to Google and searching for an article like this one you're reading now. Even if it isn't your first rodeo, you're still going to be curious about the level of pain for different parts of the body. Now, not all areas of the body are created equal when it comes to tolerating tattoo needles. Some regions have gained notoriety for inducing a slightly higher level of pain. We've listed them below and please feel free to take a look at the tattoo pain chart too!

  1. Head, Face and Lips Your little noggin is precious because it contains arguably the most important organ in your body, the brain! Before you start freaking out, the tattoo needles won't go all the way through to your brain so don't worry. Now your head contains thin skin, low fat and hardly any muscle content, which means it will hurt quite a bit. The lips, known for bruising and swelling, will experience a substantial amount of discomfort too. Typically, getting tattoos on your face will be uncomfortable. Additionally, the pain level varies depending on the chosen method – whether you opt for a tattoo machine or the stick-and-poke technique. Using a machine tends to be more painful, and you may feel the vibrations, especially with a coil tattoo machine.

  2. Chest and Sternum Chest tattoos are typically painful for a lot of people, especially the sternum area where bones are more prominent. Despite the pain, it's a highly popular placement for really intricate pieces. Tattoos on the breasts and nipples are known to be some of the most painful areas too.

  3. Ribcage This is a go-to for those who want a tattoo in a discreet spot. So what's the pain like in this area? Well, the skin is a lot thinner here than most parts of the body and it will be a lot closer to the bone which will hurt a bit more than your arms and legs for example. You'd be surprised as to how many first-timers get tattooed in this spot, a lot of people do! Now, picture this: you're lying on your side, arm over your head, trying to stay as still as a statue. Why? Your tattoo artist needs access and a good stretch on the skin. Sounds fun, right? Well, after a while, it's not all that comfy. Plus, breathing in this position causes movement, and you don't want your tattoo turning into an abstract masterpiece because you couldn't keep still. Imagine trying to draw on a piece of paper and somebody suddenly pulling the paper away from you. Pro tip: breathe steadily, and if it gets too much, ask your tattoo artist for a timeout to readjust.

  4. Spine Moving down the spine – great for those intricate, elegant designs. This is a great placement for ornamental, script or floral pieces but what's the pain like? The skin in this area is thin and there are more nerve endings than you'd think. There's no hefty muscle cushioning so it will be hitting a few nerves here and there. We've seen so many amazing intricate pieces tattooed in this area and they can look so elegant! Again, position-wise you may need to sacrifice some limbs during your session but only temporarily of course! You're always allowed to readjust yourself. Remember though, the longer you take a break, the harder it is to get back into it without it hurting more and more so sometimes it's best to power through. A break long enough to resume your blood circulation may be enough plus a drink and maybe some sweets or chocolate for a quick boost of energy!

  5. Hands, Fingers and Palms Now, let's talk tiny spaces – your hands and fingers. Small, yes, but they pack a punch in the pain department. Thin skin? Check. No muscle padding? Double-check. It's not your usual tattoo ache; it's sharp and intense and there won't be much to cushion the hit of the tattoo needles. And the palmar side of your hands? That's a tricky one. Thin skin and dense flesh make it a challenge for the ink to stick, leading to potential pain, ink loss, and extra trips (and cash) for touch-ups. Touch-ups are not always free of charge as hands and fingers are notorious for ink coming out and fading. Also overall, it's best to get tattooed on the tops of your hands and fingers instead.

  6. Ankles and Shins Heading to the lower deck – ankles and shins. Ankles are spicy, thanks to bones, tendons, and nerve endings throwing a party close to the surface. Surprise movements, like kicking out involuntarily might happen and you'll be spouting "sorry" like it's going out of style. Them shins with those tibia bones saying hello, are more painful the closer you get to the bone.

  7. Collarbone You can get pretty floral pieces to sit just below the collarbones, script or matching sprig of leaves with a flower to sit in between. Sounds cool, right? But what about the pain? The thin skin here offers little protection, and the pain cranks up near the edges of those collarbones. The good news? Positioning is a breeze, either lying flat or sitting up. Just be ready for a bit of endurance if your design is detailed.

  8. Armpit Have you ever had your armpits waxed? Remember the first time you had it done? Ouchies. It's a sensitive area so yes it will hurt more than most parts of the body when getting tattooed. We've seen some beautiful mandala patterns tattooed in this area and they look incredible. If your pain tolerance is infinite then you'd probably breeze through a session in this spot.

  9. Groin and Inner Thigh Capital S-E-N-S-I-T-I-V-E. That's all you need to know when it comes to these areas, faced with tattoo needles. We have a client who's a seasoned pro when it comes to tattoos but out of all the placements they've had so far, they said the inner thigh was the most painful yet.

  10. Feet, Toes and Soles Just like your hands, they have thin skin and no muscle padding which means the pain will be plentiful. Usually the best parts of the feet where ink will hold is the top areas of your feet and toes. Now the soles, same as your palms they are covered in nerve endings which means it will hurt a lot. Some would even go as far as to say that palms and soles are the worst for tattoo pain. Also the ink doesn't hold well in these areas so even when you have gotten through the ordeal of the procedure, the ink might not stay.


  • If you've never had a tattoo before, aim for an easier placement just to get used to the sensation of the tattoo needles.

  • Opt for a simple design such as linework and go small. 'Go big or go home' isn't necessary.

  • Seasoned Pro? You still need to do the basics of sleeping well and eating before your appointment. It doesn't matter if you're built like The Rock, you're still likely to crumble. Terrible pun absolutely intended.

  • Leave enough time to get to your appointment, as running late can add extra stress and anxiety.

  • Try not to listen to horror stories from friends who struggled to get through their tattoo sessions or read any stories online. Remember, your pain tolerance could be different from others and they may not have prepared well for their appointment so try not to let anyone ruin your experience. Just make sure you do your research on choosing a reputable tattoo studio and that you've done all the self-care basics of sleeping well the night before and eating before your appointment.

Tattoo Pain Diagram

A diagram of human anatomy demonstrating pain levels for tattoos

Important Pain tolerance can vary from person to person so while you may find an inner thigh tattoo easy to get through, the next person could struggle with it. Not all of us are built the same but there are ways to reduce tattoo pain if you're not as good with pain in general. Take a look at this article on 5 Effective Ways To Reduce Tattoo Pain. As long as you go to your tattoo appointment well-prepared, you should be able to get through your appointment smoothly. Your tattoo artist will not be expecting you to be tough as nails but they'd appreciate knowing that you've done the self-care basics like eating beforehand, having slept enough, and definitely not hungover or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It's amazing what an empty stomach versus a full one can do during your tattoo sessions. If you try to power through a tattoo appointment without any food, you're guaranteed to struggle because after all, you can't run a car without petrol or battery charge.

If you already have an appointment booked in somewhere, take a look at this article to help you plan your day and know what to take with you. Looking to get tattooed in Birmingham, UK? We're only a 5 minute walk from Birmingham New Street station! We have an easy to fill in booking form here or feel free to email us with your design, size and placement to and we'll get back to you with a price and our next available dates!

Thank you for reading!


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