Anyone who has ever had an injection understands that getting needles inserted into the skin is not pleasant. Tattoo needles are smaller than syringes, but when you get a tattoo between 1 and 20 of these needles are inserted into the top layer of your skin thousands of times. Inside the skin, the needles leave small amounts of colored crystals just below the epidermis layer of your skin.
These crystals are identified as foreign bodies by the white blood cells, which initially tend to respond by trying to remove the colored crystals. This initial irritation soon disappears and the color remains. The result of this process is what some describe as a burning sensation or pain while the tattooing is in process, followed by soreness and tenderness for a little while afterward.
How painful is it?
How much pain you feel when getting a tattoo can be very individual. Some describe it as almost pleasant, while others say it hurts or at least is uncomfortable. In discussion forums where this was discussed, one sees people mostly describing the pain of getting a tattoo as being between 0 and 5 on a scale that goes to 10. Many also describe tattooing as less painful when compared to getting a piercing.
It seems that most people describe getting a tattoo as unpleasant rather than painful. The exception is those who have larger tattoos done. If you get a big tattoo that takes several hours to complete it will be more painful than if you get a small tattoo. There are also important differences relating to where on the body you are getting your tattoo. In addition, there are differences in the level of pain caused by different tattoo styles. This is because different needles are used in different styles, and the needles are also used differently.
How much does it hurt, and why?
How people experience pain is very individual. Some have high pain thresholds, while others have very low pain thresholds. Others actually enjoy pain. No matter which group you belong to it can be interesting to know that there are significant differences in the pain depending on which part of the body you are getting a tattoo. For some, this may be an important consideration before deciding where to place the tattoo.
Here we are taking a look at some of the most painful places on the body to get a tattoo, and why this is the case.
- The genitals are probably the most painful place to get a tattoo. This is easy to understand as it is also a part of the body where you have an incredibly high concentration of nerves. If you get a tattoo there, you activate those nerves … and not in a good way. The sensitive area extends down the inside of the thighs. Despite the pain associated with getting a tattoo in this area, there are still more and more people choosing to get tattoos there.
- The neck is another painful place to get a tattoo. It is a zone with a high concentration of nerves, and where you also have sensitive skin. This is where you have the breathing tube. Getting a tattoo there can, therefore, feel like being suffocated by the pressure the tattoo artist puts on your throat. The neck is, therefore, a fairly unusual place to get a tattoo. Getting a tattoo on your head is also painful and uncomfortable experience. Your head has a high concentration of nerves, in a thin layer of skin, with bone just underneath. The sound of the vibrations from the tattoo machine feels terrible when getting a tattoo on your head.
- Knees and elbows have a lot in common when it comes to tattoo pain. On the back of both knees and elbows, you have thin skin with many nerves. A lot of cartilage and veins lie just below the skin with little muscle mass around it. The front of the knee or elbow is also not comfortable to tattoo. The skin there is much thicker, so you need to tattoo harder and deeper to get the ink where it needs to go.
- The ribcage is an are many experience as a painful place to get tattooed, but this actually seems to vary quite a bit. About half of those getting tattoos there seems to experience it as painful, with the other half thinking it’s okay. This distribution may have to do with the fact that tattoos on the ribs often are part of larger tattoos. Large tattoos are generally more painful than small tattoos.
- Other areas including hands, wrists, feet, ankles, armpits, collarbones, abdomen and buttocks are all also places where many find it painful to get a tattoo, but how much pain that is experienced in these areas seems to vary much more.
How to deal with the pain?
Eat well before having your tattoo done. You may also want to bring snacks, especially if you have a long tattoo session ahead of you. If your blood sugar is higher you will be better able to cope with the pain. Also, remember to drink enough water. This and a good meal in advance will prevent you from feeling slack and giving up in the middle of the session.
There is also an important mental component to getting a tattoo. Think positive. A positive attitude helps people through all kinds of uncomfortable and painful situations. Think about how good your tattoo will look and how proud you can be of your efforts after it’s completed.
Listen to music or watch TV to distract you from the pain. If you listen to your favorite music it may be easier to forget the pain of getting a tattoo.
Beauty comes at a price
There are a few situations the phrase above fits better. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, but for most people, the pain is not a deal-breaker. Unless you have a very low tolerance for pain, and as long as you stay away from the most painful zones, there is no need to stay away from tattoos because of the pain.