I am terrified of needles. Simple as that. Anything to do with needles scares the bones out of me. So when I decided to get a tattoo, I knew there was no going back. It took me an hour to settle down in front of the chair, frustrating the tattoo artist because I wouldn’t stop crying. Needless to say, there I was, petrified of the needle, ready to explode from the pain and crying my eyes out. Then again, I am very sensitive to any type of pain. But, what I have learned is that pain level and pain tolerance are subjective. No matter the body part—everyone has their own pain threshold. What is killer for someone might be a blip on the radar for another.
For example, my best friend got the same tattoo on the same position I did, and she was completely unfazed. So, what does this mean? While tattoos can be very very painful, in reality, every person is different and they will likely give you a different answer as to what hurts most. Although the question will never have a solid answer, personal opinions from thousands of people have formed a good solid base for deciding which parts of the body are most likely to be the most painful places to get a tattoo. That being said, if you are thinking about getting your first tattoo soon and want to experience less pain, don’t worry, we are here to save the day. Here are some of the least painful spots you might want to look into. And you would be surprised to find that the armpit and lower back do not make the list. Someone bring out the anesthetic please, you don’t need to be a first-timer to still need it.
Where Tattoos Hurt the Most
1. Your Outer Shoulders
The outer shoulder tattoo is probably where one will less likely to feel the pain. There is plenty of flesh acting as a cushion for the needle and has fewer nerve endings. The best part about the area? It can fit any size tattoo. You can go small or medium size or go with a tattoo that covers your upper arm and outer bicep. Usually, people describe outer shoulder tattoo pain as a slight dull background pain, meaning the session would probably be a breeze.
2. Your Outer Thighs
Thigh tattoos are less painful than one thinks. Surprisingly, the leg muscles are generally pretty good at tolerating pain. The abundance of muscle and fat with low nerve ending makes it the least painful area for tattooing. Now, make sure the design you choose doesn’t fall between your inner thighs region, as it is an erogenous zone and has more nerve receptors. The thighs offer a lot of cushion compared to other bone-y areas. Plus, healing time can be easier and much faster, since you can wear shorts and not put any type of friction on it. You might want to consider a calf tattoo as well, which is another one of the areas of the body with more cushioning and therefore often involves a smaller amount of pain than others.
3. Your Fingers
Although you might experience discomfort, the finger is one of the areas you might not feel as much pain compared to other parts of your body. The most painful spot on your finger is near the bone. But in reality, tattoos done on your fingers are usually small, meaning the pain will last you just a few seconds, or minutes at most. One reason why the finger is one of the least painful places to get a tattoo is that there aren’t many nerve endings on the top of the finger.
4. Your Inner Wrists
Wrist tattoos can be tricky, due to the nerves surrounding the area. Yet, the inner sides don’t hurt as much when the needle touches, due to the thin skin and less prominence of bones. The forearm is also another popular trend thanks to the minimal pain associated with the placement. But, be careful if you do get a wrist tattoo, make sure to avoid any bony areas, these are known to be deadly! Get that numbing cream ready!
5. Your Upper Back
The upper area of the back is a good place since it usually has thick skin and little density of nerve endings. Yet, be careful, if the design reaches your spinal area, it can touch the bone and cause you severe pain. Just like with your rib cage. If your design wraps around your body, brace yourself, since your ribcage doesn’t have much muscle, fat, or skin surrounding the ribs. Meaning, you will probably feel the needle digging into your skin, sending the pain to your central nervous system. This is due to the nerves surrounding the ribs, relatively close to the surface of the skin.
6. Your Hips
Hips do tend to be quite sensitive to pain, however, due to the amount of fat around the area the hips tend to cushion the blow of the needle. They usually tend to be less painful tattoo spots for women than it is for men. The only concern you might have is if you happen to be thin, your hip bone might stick out, which could be quite painful. So get some fat in you before going! Kidding, but it is completely down to the individual, as well as the tattooer’s technique and needle being used when it comes to tattoo pain.
7. Your Neck
Yup, there is a reason why you see so many people with neck tattoos, especially below their hairline. There aren’t a lot of nerve endings on the back, which is why it is very common for people to get minimalist, small tattoos in that part of their body. In reality, the most sensitive areas to get a tattoo are usually places where there are not much fat shielding areas of muscle and bone.
So, moral of the story? Well, to be honest, nobody has stated that getting a tattoo is 100 percent painless. Whether you’re getting a lightly minimalist tattoo or going with a large elaborate design, it’s going to take time and a bit of pain. At the end of the day, there is going to be discomfort no matter where you decide to get it. I mean…it IS permanent. So, if you want a new tattoo, want to keep it simple, and want the least painful experience possible, you can get, keep in mind the areas above, practice good aftercare, and you’ll be set! Happy tattooing!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 6, 2021.