Most Painful Tattoo Spots

  • Written By Dan Hunter on May 26, 2019
    Last Updated: January 10, 2021

Tattoo pain completely depends on your individual tolerances and where on the body you choose to get tattooed. There are some areas, such as fleshy parts of the body, where tattoos aren’t too unpleasant, but there are other locations over bones and dense nerve bundles that can be much more uncomfortable. 

Some people feel very little pain when they are getting tattooed, while others can find it excruciating. If you are worried about feeling the latter, read on as you may wish to avoid some of the following painful tattoo spots.

Most Painful Places To Get A Tattoo

Anywhere that has a lot of nerve endings or is close to bone will likely be a painful place to get tattooed. Here are some of the most common uncomfortable places to get tattooed:

1. Ribs

The skin around the ribs is very thin, therefore, getting a tattoo over your ribs can be painful, especially if your ribs are prominent or you don’t have a lot of upper abdominal fat. Your rib cage also moves when you breathe, which can make the sensation of being tattooed more intense because of the constant motion.

2. Back of the Knees

The back of your knees is a troublesome place to get tattooed because the skin there is very malleable and not taut. Whenever you get tattooed in a place where the skin is loose, there can be more sensitivity than when getting a tattoo over firm skin. This is because there a lot of nerve endings behind the knees, which can be stimulated by the tattoo needle, causing quite a sharp sting.

3. Hips

Hip tattoos are very popular, especially for women. Having one along your hip bone line can look great, particularly when it can be ‘shown off’ in the summer. However, it’s also the perfect way to express your individuality while retaining your corporate job.

As the hip bones are so very close to the skin, this area can be one of the most painful places to get a tattoo. Nevertheless, if you know it’s going to hurt yet you want a hip tattoo anyway, you might find it reassuring to know that your body will release adrenaline during the process, which will help to manage the pain.

4. Stomach

The stomach can be a hurtful place to get inked. This is due to the fact that the skin on the stomach is very elastic and stretches easily. Though, it is worth bearing in mind that everyone has a different body shape. Therefore, someone who has a flat stomach is less likely to experience as much discomfort as someone who has a higher body weight percentage.

If you decide to go ahead with your planned stomach tattoo, it would be worth noting that you should avoid eating just beforehand.

5. Neck

Neck tattoos are painful because there are some large nerves on the back and sides of the neck that can be irritated by the motion of the tattoo needle. You may even get pain radiating from your neck into your back because the cervical nerve is located in the neck. Neck tattoos are not for the faint of heart or those with a low tolerance for pain.

6. Head/Face/Ears

Having your head or face tattooed is rarely a good idea as they can be difficult to hide. Still, if you want to get a face or a head tattoo, including procedures like microblading or permanent makeup,  you should know that these are particularly unpleasant places to get tattoos.

There are a lot of nerve endings in the face that can be inflamed during a tattoo, and the bones of the face are very close to the skin without a lot of fat to act as a cushion.

Similarly, ears can also be very painful areas.

7. Lips

Another painful place to get a tattoo is the lips. Again, lip tattoos are rarely recommended unless you’re getting permanent makeup. Due to the fact that the skin on the lips is very thin and loose and there are a lot of nerve endings, the pain while being tattooed here is likely to be quite severe. Furthermore, you will probably bleed more than tattoos in other places. It is also possible you will look like you got punched in the mouth afterwards as the lips will bruise and swell.

8. Fingers/Toes/Palms

Fingers and toes are popular places to get tattoos but they are also painful areas. For the same reason as mentioned above, there are a huge amount of nerves in your hands and feet that will be disturbed, causing painful spasms. Plus, the skin is evidently thin on the extremities.

Another problem to consider is it’s incredibly challenging for a tattoo artist to get a clean, precise tattoo on areas that are so small and curved such as the fingers and toes.

There’s also a reason why driving nails or stakes into the palm used to be a popular form of torture. The palm of your hand is made from soft skin that contains dozens of nerves. If you’ve ever accidentally pricked your palm with a sewing needs you know that the pain is intense and quick. So it is worth bearing in mind, that when you’re getting a tattoo on the extremely sensitive palm of your hand, it stands to reason that it’s going to hurt. A lot.

9. Along The Spine

Spinal tattoos are popular and they look great but the spine is near the top of the list of the most painful tattoo locations on the body. There are a lot of nerves that run up and down your spine, while the bones are very close to the skin. Therefore, getting a tattoo along your spine can feel like the tattoo artist is taking a hammer to your bones.

10. Top Of Foot

Tattoos on the top of the foot are well-known for being extremely tender, and it’s very difficult to get a good image in that spot. There are big bundles of nerves on the top of the foot that will cause shooting pain while you are having it done.

Additionally, the skin is exceptionally lean on the top of the foot which can make it even more agonizing. If you are getting a foot tattoo, be prepared to have it touched up often. The tattoo artist may need to tattoo the design several times in order to get the image to look good in that spot.

11. Armpit

Unless you know that you have an extremely high tolerance for pain, you should probably not get an armpit tattoo. People who have had them in the past have said that it is the most painful place on the body to get inked.

This may or may not be true but there are a lot of nerve endings and glands in the armpit. Plus, the skin is once again very delicate, resulting in more discomfort than other areas.

12. Elbow/Kneecap

The bones are very close to the skin on the elbow or kneecap. The vibrations caused by tattooing over bone that is just below the surface of the skin prompt sharp pain.

13. Inner Bicep

The muscle in the inner bicep helps to lessen the pain of getting a tattoo in this spot. On the other hand, the skin is still very soft and not firm. An arm tattoo like this can also take longer to heal than tattoos in other places.

14. Ankle

Have you ever whacked your ankle against the side of the couch or against a recliner in the family room? A tattoo on your ankle will hurt worse than that. The ankle bone is directly under a very thin layer of skin and when you get an ankle tattoo, it can hurt as badly as getting your ribcage tattooed.

15. Shin

Theoretically, your shin shouldn’t be that painful of a place to get a tattoo, but it is. That’s because the bones in your shin are located just below the thin layer of skin.

16. Nipples

The nipples are one of the most sensitive parts of the body, so of course getting a tattoo on your nipples is going to hurt.

17. Groin Area

Like many of the other areas mentioned above, the groin area is filled with numerous nerve endings that can be triggered during a tattoo session. Just keep in mind that it’s going to hurt more than you think it will.


Getting a tattoo is always going to include some pain. Although if you want to avoid the discomfort as much as possible, choose a spot for your tattoo that isn’t taut, over a bone or in an area where there are lots of nerve endings. Numbing products generally work well and may also be used for additional relief.

For people wanting a little extra assistance for dealing with the pain, a good tattoo numbing cream can really help to take the edge off.

One of the most effective tattoo numbing products currently on the market is Zensa Numbing Cream, which contains the highest level of Lidocaine allowed by the FDA for over-the-counter use. The feedback left by thousands of customers for this product is nothing short of exceptional.

Just follow the instructions supplied with the cream and apply shortly before your tattoo appointment is due to begin so that you can look forward to a less painful and more comfortable tattooing experience. The amount of cream you get in a tube also ensures you have more than enough for a large tattoo. Click here to buy from Amazon

Related Tattoo Pain Articles