'Like Wet Fire Pulling My Skin Off': The Most Painful Place to Get a Tattoo Revealed

'Like Wet Fire Pulling My Skin Off': The Most Painful Place to Get a Tattoo Revealed

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Stories & Ink is full of tattoo lovers and enthusiasts, and most of us have had our fair share of painful tattoo spots tattooed. For those of you wondering where is the most painful place to get a tattoo, we share our experience so you can be prepared for any ouch-filled session.

And don’t worry, the pain felt during and after a tattoo is totally worth it. I mean, why else would people get more than one?  

Most painful tattoo spots

Barbara @barbaradzerve is Creative Content Manager at Stories & Ink. She says her ribs, neck and elbow were the most painful to get tattooed:

"On the ribs it felt like wet fire was pulling my skin off - a solid 8.5/10. And my neck just felt like it was being chainsawed while being in a very uncomfortable position AND not being able to breathe properly - 9/10. Getting my elbow tattooed was hell."

Barbara Dzērve-Ozoliņa"My neck felt like it was being chainsawed" - Stories & Ink's Creative Content Manager, Barbara. 

Hopefully that doesn't put you off too much! But seriously, there are numbing creams you can use if you’re getting a painful spot tattooed. Just remember to do a patch test, and let your tattoo artist know you’ve used them.

Stories & Ink writer Emily (@emily_etc) says, "I feel I've picked the worst places for mine; inner thigh, inner arm, ribs and top of feet!"

As for my most painful spot to be tattooed, it has to be my foot. I got my first tattoo there when I was 18, it took me three years to get another one and it’s still unfinished!

But since then my collection has grown and I’ve gotten some painful places tattooed including under my boobs, right rib, spine and knee ditch. It’s almost like you forget the pain once your tattoo is healed and then all you can see are the gaps that need filling!

Most painful places to get a tattoo

While there’s no getting around the fact tattoos hurt, the level of pain you experience does differ depending on the area of the body you’re getting inked. Generally, the most painful places to get a tattoo are areas which have a lot of nerve endings, where the skin is thin and there’s either bones closely under the skin or the area doesn’t have a lot of fat.

This makes sense considering the opposite - the least painful places to get tattooed tend to be areas where the skin is thicker, there’s less nerve endings and more fat. So places like your forearm, outside of thigh and upper arms.

Among the rest of the Stories & Ink team, the most painful places to get a tattoo include:

  • Feet and toes
  • Ribs
  • Sternum
  • Neck
  • Armpits
  • Ankles
  • Spine
  • Knees including back of the knees
  • Elbows and elbow ditch

Stories & Ink team members after getting tattooedStories & Ink team members after getting tattooed at Leeds Tattoo Expo 2022.

This is a pretty long list, and there are probably more areas of the body which are painful to get tattooed. We’re all different, and pain is subjective. You might find a spot like the back of your thigh really painful but your tattooed buddy thinks it was a breeze to get tattooed.

If you’re a tattoo first timer you might want to avoid the really painful spots, ease yourself in a little. Or you might be like me (and other tattoo collectors) and know the pain is definitely bearable and worth it.

The most painful place to get a tattoo for a woman

The most painful places for women will be areas with more nerve endings like your nipples or breasts including between your breasts. If you’re planning a sternum tattoo this can also be a painful spot, same as your ribs. You may want to opt for hand poke tattoos here as many people say they’re more gentle. Or choose a design that’s simple, perhaps using fine lines.

Hand poke tattooHand poke tattoos are said to be less painful than machine tattoos.

The most painful place to get a tattoo for a man

Most painful spots for men are boney areas or parts of the body with thin skin. For example your elbows and feet. You might want to leave your elbow blank when designing a sleeve or incorporate it into the design. Places with a lot of nerve endings like nipples can be painful, so you may want to think about this if you’re getting a chest piece.

Stories & Ink founder Stu has hip and ankle tattoos which he describes as "equal in levels of scratchiness but not unbearable!"

How painful is a tattoo?

Tattoo pain is totally subjective, everyone will experience it differently. A tattoo needle goes into five layers of your skin, so it’s going to be painful. The pain varies from scratching to a burning sensation depending on the technique and placement.

But, often it’s the position you have to sit or lie in that can make your tattoo even more uncomfortable. Make sure to ask your artist to adjust the tattoo bed if you need to, they may offer you a cushion and remember to ask for breaks when you need them.

Tattoo pain can also be minimised with proper preparation, like eating beforehand and getting a good night’s sleep. Find out more in our pre-tattoo preparation guide.

Most painful place tattoo healing tips

Healing a body area that was painful to get tattooed like your foot, ribs or underboob can also be uncomfortable. Barbara agrees, saying "the worst to heal were my armpits, and honestly, that was worse than getting my ribs and neck tattooed."

When getting your foot or feet tattooed, bear in mind that they can swell and be really sore. You might need to take time off work, especially if you get both done in the same session. For things like ribs, wearing a bra can be difficult, and sleeping on your side might be out of the question.

For your armpits you’d want to think about how you’re going to stop them getting sweaty and stick together. Your tattoo artist will usually have advice on these and you can read more healing and aftercare tips in our healing guide for sensitive body parts.


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