Home Tattoo Back Tattoos Pain Level: 7 Factors & 5 Positions [How to Minimize]

Back Tattoos Pain Level: 7 Factors & 5 Positions [How to Minimize]

The 7 Factors That Determine Back Tattoo Pain Levels
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Getting a tattoo on the upper or lower back generally causes moderate pain. This is because the skin in these areas is thicker and contains fewer nerves than the shoulder blades and spine, where the needle can come into contact with bone and intensify discomfort.

The level of pain experienced during back tattoos varies depending on the placement. Lack of padding may make back tattoos painful for people with less muscle or fat. Bonier areas are typically more painful spots, much like other bony regions throughout the body.

Fortunately, Dr. Numb®'s powerful numbing cream can significantly reduce discomfort during your back tattoo, regardless of placement, body type, or pain tolerance.

In this article, we will explore the various factors influencing the pain level of back tattoos, including location, session duration, personal pain threshold, and body type. Additionally, we will provide practical tips for minimizing pain and ensuring a pleasurable back tattoo journey.

Back Tattoo Pain Level: What to Expect and How to Deal With It?

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Since upper and lower back tattoos have thicker skin and fewer nerve endings, they rank on the low-moderate end of the tattoo pain scale. Let's explore expectations and strategies for a smoother journey with back tattoo pain.

Mapping the Terrain: Factors Influencing Back Tattoo Pain

Before diving into the specifics of back tattoo pain, let’s first understand its causes. Tattooing involves repeatedly piercing your skin’s top layer with a sharp needle covered with pigment.

This creates tiny wounds that trigger your body’s inflammatory response and nerve signals. The result is a sensation of pain that varies depending on several factors.

Location Matters: Navigating Pain in 5 Back Areas

It is important to consider the location of the tattoo when determining how much a back tattoo hurts. The back is not a uniform surface, and some parts are more sensitive than others. Generally speaking, the closer the tattoo is to the spine, the more it will hurt.

This is because the spine tattoo has a lot of nerve endings that can transmit pain signals to the brain. The same goes for areas with less fat or muscle to cushion the skin, such as the shoulder blades or the ribs.

Here are some common back tattoo areas and their pain levels:

Embrace the Full Back: Exploring the Extent of Pain

Exploring Pain Extent in the Back

A full-back tattoo is a bold and impressive choice but comes with much pain. A full-back tattoo covers a large skin area and can take several hours or sessions to complete.

The pain level will vary depending on where the tattoo is placed on your back, but you can expect discomfort or sting throughout the process.

Delicacy on Display: Unraveling the Lower Back’s Minimal Pain

A tattoo on the lower back is one of the least painful tattoo spots. It has a lot of fat and fewer nerve endings than other back parts. The lower back also tends to be less exposed to sun damage or friction, making the skin more sensitive.

This does not mean a lower back tattoo will be painless. You might still feel some pressure or vibration from the needle, especially near the hips or tailbone.

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The Center Stage: Unveiling the Pain at the Central Back

The central bank is one of the most painful areas to tattoo. This is because it is close to the spine, with many nerve endings that can send intense pain signals to the brain.

The central back also has less fat or muscle to protect the skin from the needle. A central back tattoo can feel like a sharp or burning sensation that can be hard to endure.

Ascending to the Shoulders: Pain in the Upper Back Realm

The upper back is another moderately painful area to get a tattoo on. This is because it has more muscle and fat that protects the skin from needles but also has some nerve endings that can cause pain.

The upper back also tends to move a lot when you breathe, making the tattooing process more uncomfortable. An upper back tattoo can feel mild to moderate stinging or dullness.

Uncharted Territories: Pain on the Back of Arm and Calf

Back Tattoo Pain in Uncharted Territory

The side calf and back of the arm are not uncommon tattoo locations, but they can also be quite painful. They have thin skin and little muscle or fat to cushion the needle.

The backs of the arm and calf also have many nerve endings that can make the tattooing process more painful. A tattoo on these areas may cause sharp, intense pain that can be hard to tolerate.

Time and Tolerance: Unraveling the Pain-Length Equation

Another factor that affects the pain of a back tattoo is the length of the session. The longer you sit in the tattoo chair, the more pain you will feel.

This is because your body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, will wear off after about an hour of tattooing. As your endorphins decrease, your pain receptors become more sensitive, and your pain level increases.

The length of your session will depend on several factors, such as:

  • The size and complexity of your tattoo design.
  • The skill and speed of your tattoo artist.
  • The number and frequency of breaks you take.
  • Your personal pain tolerance and stamina.

Mind Over Matter: Individual Pain Tolerance and Physiology

Intuitive Pain Tolerance, Back Tattoo Pain

Your pain tolerance and physiology are key factors that influence the discomfort experienced during a back tattoo. This is determined by your ability to manage pain and how your body responds to it.

Pain perception and response vary among individuals; some feel more pain for the same tattoo, and others feel less pain for different tattoos.

Many factors can affect your pain tolerance and physiology, such as:

  • Your genetics.
  • Your mood.
  • Your stress level.
  • Your hormones.
  • Your medications.
  • Your previous experiences with pain or tattoos.
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Specific Back Tattoo Ideas and Their Pain Levels

  • Back Thigh Tattoo: While not technically on the back, these tattoos are usually less painful than those on bone-heavy areas like the spine.
  • Full Back Tattoos for Females: These tattoos cover a large area and involve varying pain levels, from mild in fleshier parts to intense near the spine and shoulder blades.
  • Lower Back Side Tattoo (Women): These tattoos can be painful, especially if they extend towards the ribs or hips where the skin is more sensitive.
  • Top Back Tattoos: Similar to upper back tattoos, these are ‌less painful unless placed close to the spine or shoulder blades.
  • Tramp Stamp Tattoo: Despite the derogatory term, this lower back tattoo is moderate to mildly painful, depending on exact placement.
  • Back Portrait Tattoos: These require detailed and shaded work, which might cause more discomfort because of the intricate nature of the design.

Understanding these pain levels can help you choose the best placement for your back tattoo and prepare for the experience.

The Gradation of Pain: A Journey through Back Tattoo Areas

Now that we have covered the general factors that affect back tattoo pain let’s take a closer look at the specific areas of the back and how they compare in terms of pain level. As we mentioned, some back parts are more painful than others. Here is a gradation of pain from low to high for the most common back tattoo areas.

Low to Moderate Pain: Exploring the Upper Back

Tattooing the upper back is relatively painless, as the underlying muscle and fat provide a protective barrier against the needle. Additionally, this area has fewer nerve endings, resulting in a lesser pain sensation.

This does not mean an upper back tattoo idea will be painless. You might still feel discomfort or stinging, especially if the tattoo covers a large area or has a lot of detail.

Here are some things to know about upper back tattoos.

Beneath the Surface: Interactions between Muscles and Pain

Pain and Muscle Interaction, Back Tattoos

The upper back has more muscle than other parts, which can be advantageous and disadvantages for tattooing. It acts as a cushion, absorbing needle impact, but can also cause pain and bleeding when muscles contract and twitch due to stimulation.

To minimize this effect, try to relax your muscles as much as possible during the session. You can also ask your tattoo artist to stretch your skin while tattooing, which can reduce muscle movement.

The Mild Encounter: Why Upper Back Tattoos are Bearable

The upper back is less painful than other body parts like the upper arm or chest. This is because it has fewer nerve endings that sense pain. It also heals faster and easier due to less exposure to sun damage or friction from clothing. This means less pain and irritation during recovery.

Minimal Pain: Traversing the Lower Back

The lower back is another relatively painless place to get a tattoo. It has fewer nerve endings and more fat than other back parts. Also, the lower back is less susceptible to sun damage and friction from clothing, making the skin more sensitive.

This does not mean that lower back tattoos are completely painless. You may still feel slight pressure or vibrations from the needle near your hips and tailbone.

Know these things about lower back tattoos.

Nerve Nexus: Dissecting Skin Sensitivity in the Lumbar Region

Back Tattoo Pain, Lumbar Nerve Nexus

The lower back has fewer nerve endings than other parts but can still cause pain. The most sensitive area is the lumbar region around the spine. Nerve roots branch out from the spinal cord, innervating the lower body.

Avoid getting a tattoo directly on or near the spine to minimize pain and inflammation. Ask your tattoo artist to use a lighter touch or smaller needle in this area.

Embracing Serenity: Reveling in the Pleasure of Lesser Pain

The lower back has less pain than other parts with similar characteristics, like the stomach or thighs. Fewer nerve endings make it less prone to infection and complications, leading to faster healing and less discomfort during recovery.

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Significant Pain: Unmasking the Central Back

Tattooing the central back can be extremely painful due to its proximity to the spine and abundant nerve endings. With less fat or muscle for protection, the needle can cause sharp or burning sensations that can be challenging to endure.

A few things to know about central back tattoos:

When it comes to central back tattoos, there are key aspects to consider. Let's delve into what makes them unique and meaningful choices for body art enthusiasts.


The Backbone Challenge: Navigating Pain near the Spinal Axis

The spine is sensitive, with many nerve endings that sense pain. Its numerous bones make the skin less flexible. Getting a tattoo near or on the spine can cause more pain and bleeding. To minimize this, avoid tattooing near or on the spine. Your tattoo artist can use a smaller needle in this area.

Embracing the Intensity: Discovering Beauty Amid Discomfort

Discovering Beauty Amid Back Tattoo Pain and Discomfort

The central back is more sensitive than other pain areas with similar traits. For example, the chest or ribs, which have more fat or muscle for cushioning, cause less discomfort. In addition, prolonged sun exposure and clothing rubbing on the central back extend the back tattoo healing time and intensify pain during recovery.

A back tattoo can still hold significant value and meaning despite the potential discomfort. It provides an opportunity to express your style and can serve as a symbol of bravery and perseverance.

Unleashing the Power Within: Techniques to Minimize Back Tattoo Pain

While pain is inevitable when getting a back tattoo, you can do some things to reduce it and make the process easier and more comfortable. Here are some practical tips on minimizing back tattoo pain before, during, and after your session.

Preparing the Vessel: Mental and Physical Priming

One of the best ways to minimize back tattoo pain is to prepare yourself mentally and physically before your appointment. This means taking care of your body and mind to be in optimal condition for your tattoo session.

Here are some ways mentally and physically prepare.

Serenity through Breaths: The Art of Calmness

Back Tattoo Pain and Calmness Through Breaths

To relax before a tattoo session, try practicing breathing exercises. They reduce stress, anxiety, and tension, making you more pain-sensitive. Additionally, breathing exercises increase oxygen intake, improving blood circulation and healing.

Here are some simple breathing exercises you can try:

  • Deep breathing: Breathe slowly through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, then breathe slowly through your mouth for four counts. Repeat for several minutes.
  • Box breathing: Take four slow breaths through your nose, breathe for four counts, then breathe through your mouth, repeating for several minutes. Hold your breath again for four counts, repeating for several minutes.
  • Alternate nostril breathing: Use your thumb and index finger to alternate closing your nostrils. Breathe slowly through your left nostril, then close it with your finger and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat the process, inhaling through your right nostril, closing it with your finger, and exhaling through your left nostril. Repeat for a few minutes.
  • Numbing the Sting: Reduce pain sensation during tattoo sessions with topical anesthetics and tattoo numbing cream. These can temporarily numb the skin by blocking pain-transmitting nerve signals. Available in various forms like creams, sprays, gels, or patches.

Note that not all anesthetics are suitable for tattooing. Some products can cause skin irritation, affect ink quality, or trigger allergies. Consult your tattoo artist before using numbing products for safe and effective tattooing.

Pain-Mitigation Strategies during the Tattooing Session

While you are getting your back tattoo, you can also do some things to mitigate the pain and make the session more bearable. Here are some ways to minimize pain during tattooing.

Distracting the Mind: Artful Escapes from Pain

Escape Pain with Artful Escapes

To alleviate the discomfort during your tattoo session, diverting your attention away from it is beneficial. This entails engaging in activities that captivate, amuse, or relax you. By redirecting your focus, you can diminish the pain signals that reach your brain, reducing the pain's perceptibility.

Here are some ways to distract your mind during your tattoo session:

  • Bring a friend or family member who can support and distract you from the pain. You can chat with them, joke with them, or vent to them about how you feel.
  • Listen to music, watch a movie, read a book, or play a game on your phone to keep your mind occupied. You can also use headphones or earbuds to block out the noise of the tattoo machine.
  • Use visualization or imagery techniques to transport yourself to a different place or situation. For example, you can imagine being on a beach, forest, or spa. You can also imagine doing something you enjoy, such as hiking, dancing, or cooking.
  • Effective Communication with Your Tattoo Artist is essential to cope with pain during your session. Your tattoo artist is a skilled professional and a supportive partner who can help you through the process. By communicating effectively, you can ensure a positive and comfortable experience.

Healing with Grace: Minimizing Pain during the Tattoo Recovery

After you get your back tattoo, you must take care of it properly to ensure it heals well and does not cause more pain or complications. Here are some tips on how to minimize tattoo pain during recovery:

Nurturing the Masterpiece: Proper Tattoo Aftercare

Back Tattoo Pain, Aftercare for Masterpieces

After getting a back tattoo, the most important thing to do is follow the aftercare instructions given by your tattoo artist. They will tell you how to clean, moisturize, protect, and monitor your tattoo as it heals. Following their instructions will help prevent infection, scarring, fading, or other issues affecting your tattoo’s appearance and health.

Here are some general aftercare tips for back tattoos:

  • Clean your tattoo gently with mild soap and water at least twice daily. Pat it dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Do not rub, scratch, or pick at your tattoo.
  • Apply a thin layer of moisturizer or ointment recommended by your tattoo artist to your tattoo after cleaning it. Do not use any products that contain alcohol, fragrance, or artificial colors, as they can irritate the skin.
  • Protect your tattoo from sun exposure, water immersion, dirt, sweat, or friction. Wear loose and breathable clothing that covers your tattoo. Avoid swimming, bathing, or exercising until your tattoo is fully healed. Do not expose your tattoo to direct sunlight or tanning beds for at least a month after getting it.
  • Monitor your tattoo for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, pus, fever, or foul odor. If you notice these symptoms, contact your tattoo artist or a doctor immediately.
  • Comfort in Restoration: Navigating the Healing Process with Ease.

Healing a back tattoo takes 2-4 weeks, based on its size, complexity, and care. During this time, expect normal and temporary reactions like pain, itching, peeling, or scabbing as your body repairs itself.

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Here are some ways to cope with the healing process with ease:

  • Opt for over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to alleviate pain or inflammation. Blood thinners like aspirin should be avoided as they can exacerbate bleeding or bruising.
  • Apply cold compresses or ice packs to reduce tattoo swelling and discomfort. Don't apply them directly to the skin to avoid frostbite or ink damage. Wrap them in a cloth or towel before use.
  • Use antihistamines or hydrocortisone creams to soothe any itching or irritation. However, use them sparingly or too much, as they can dry out your skin or affect your ink. Follow the directions on the label or as advised by your tattoo artist.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet to keep your body hydrated and nourished. This will help your skin heal faster and better.


Getting a back tattoo can be a truly fulfilling and rewarding experience, enhancing your appearance while allowing you to express your unique individuality. While this process can often be challenging and even painful, it is important to acknowledge it. It necessitates thorough preparation, endurance, and proper care.

By comprehending the factors influencing the pain associated with back tattoos and following the invaluable tips we have shared in this article, you can minimize discomfort and maximize the sheer joy derived from this artistic self-expression.

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Matt Callard
I am a passionate traveler, as if traveling were my full-time job. I like to change my surroundings and environment, like changing desktop wallpaper. Nature increases the concentration in my writing, which helps brainstorming flow in my blood. I have a cat named Kitana. She is the most desperate about traveling, more than any other cat. How do I know? If I miss any tour in any week, she literally destroys my clothing with her wolverine nails.

I and my cat also participate in extreme activities like surfing, biking, hill tracking, paragliding, boating, etc. She was always there in my accidents, injuries, and stitches. She always sits on my lap when it hurts me most. The funniest part is that she has experienced all my tattoos. She sleeps on my blanket when I go through any painful experience.

My hobbies and lifestyle added many pain and injuries to my life. That is why I have a lot of experience in dealing with different levels of pain and burn. It influenced me to become a pain expert and share primary suggestions to handle any unwanted situations that hurt.


  • Which Tattoos Represent Pain?

    Thorns and Barbed Wire: These sharp and painful symbols symbolize suffering and pain.
    Broken Chains or Shackles: A broken chain or shackle symbolizes freedom from oppression.

  • How Long Does The Pain Last After Getting A Back Tattoo?

    The duration of pain following a back tattoo can vary from person to person, but generally, it lasts a few days to a week. The lower back may experience soreness and tenderness immediately after the tattoo session.

    This discomfort is akin to a mild to moderate sunburn, accompanied by some swelling. As the tattoo heals, the pain gradually subsides. Proper aftercare, including keeping the tattoo clean and moisturized, will aid in healing and reduce the overall duration of discomfort.

  • Can You Take Painkillers Before A Tattoo?

    Painkillers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, are generally not recommended before getting a tattoo. These medications can thin the blood and increase bleeding during the tattooing process, potentially affecting the quality of the tattoo and making it more challenging for the artist to work.

    Moreover, some painkillers can have adverse effects when combined with the endorphins released during tattooing, making you more sensitive to pain.

    If you're concerned about pain during the tattoo session, discussing your worries with the tattoo artist beforehand is best. They can provide valuable tips for managing discomfort during the process.

  • Is Getting A Back Tattoo More Painful Than Other Body Parts?

    The pain level experienced during a back tattoo can vary depending on an individual's pain tolerance and sensitivity. Generally, the back tends to be less painful than body parts with thinner skin and more nerve endings.

    Muscular back areas usually experience less pain during tattooing, whereas regions closer to the spine or ribs may be more sensitive. It's important to note that everyone's pain perception is unique, so individuals may have differing experiences when getting a back tattoo.

  • Does The Size Or Complexity Of A Back Tattoo Affect The Pain Level?

    The size and complexity of a back tattoo can impact the pain level during the process. Larger tattoos take more time, and prolonged exposure to the needle can cause discomfort. Intricate designs with fine details may involve repetitive needlework in certain areas, potentially causing more pain.

    Remember, the pain is temporary. The result will be a beautiful piece of body art. If you're concerned about the pain, you can work with your tattoo artist to break the session into multiple shorter sessions for manageability. Communication with your artist is key for a positive tattoo experience.

  • Are There Any Cool Upper-Back Tattoo Girls With Meaning?

    Upper-back tattoos can be beautiful and meaningful, offering a large canvas for intricate designs. Here are some cool upper-back tattoo ideas for girls, each with meaningful symbolism:
    Moons: Feminine symbols of transition, growth, and creativity.
    Dreamcatchers: With roots in Native American culture, they symbolize strength and protection.
    Skeletons: Skeletons are a cool choice for brave, rebellious women who live life to the fullest.
    Phoenix: A meaningful symbol of life, death, and rebirth.

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