Ankle Tattoo Pain - How Much Do They Hurt?

Written by: Claudia

You’ve narrowed down your placement and decided on your ankle. But now you’re wondering about how much it will hurt. Our Tattoo Pain Series of articles looks at the most popular tattoo locations and gives you the rundown on what you can expect in regards to pain.

Ankle Tattoos Pain Level

Although ankle tattoos are quite common, especially among females, don’t be misled into thinking they’re an easy zone to get tattooed. The pain level of an ankle tattoo depends how high up on the calf it goes, how close it is to the ankle bone, or how it extends down onto the top of your foot, but generally, they’re very painful.

Ankles have very thin skin and a very prominent bone, making this a very uncomfortable place to get tattooed. Even on larger or more muscular people, the ankle stays relatively free from tissue buildup or being cushioned through fat. You also need to consider that areas that see a lot of movement, like the frequent bending of an ankle, also become super sensitive to pain.

Along with the pain being amplified due to thinner skin, the bone causes a rattling experience from the needle when you are being tattooed. This can cause shockwaves of pain up your leg. The easiest way to understand this discomfort is to imagine it is similar to hitting your funny bone. People often find that the rattling of the needle is so unbearable that they do not have the mental fortitude to sit through it for a long time.

On a scale of one to five, with five being the most painful, most people rank an ankle tattoo that goes over the outside bone at around a four. Inside of the ankle or around the front of the ankle is said to be less painful.

tattoo pain chart

How to Reduce Ankle Tattoo Pain

ankle tattoo pain

If you are concerned about how much pain you’ll be able to tolerate when you get your ankle tattooed, there are some ways you can reduce the intensity of the pain.

  • Get a smaller, less detailed tattoo. Your ankle doesn’t have a lot of real estate to begin with and smaller tattoos tend to look nicer around the ankle area. If you get a smaller tattoo with less shading or coloring, this allows you to test your pain threshold.
    Another reason why a small tattoo will be less painful is because you enter the tattoo session with an adrenaline rush which crashes the longer you sit in the artist’s chair. Adrenaline helps you manage pain much more effectively.
  • Use an experienced and gentle artist. Ask to see the portfolio of the artist you are interested in and check to see that they have extensive experience with tattooing the ankle region. Selecting a gentle artist also means that you don’t risk overworking or over-irritating the area with a heavy-handed tattooer, which could increase your pain.
  • Consider a numbing cream, but only if your artist approves. Numbing creams are topical anesthetics but they do constrict your blood vessels, making tattooing more difficult for many artists. It’s important to discuss your desire to use numbing cream with your artist at your consultation. In addition, as the effects wear off, it can actually become more painful. If you get the go-ahead from your artist, have a look at our article, The 5 Best Tattoo Numbing Creams For A Painless Tattoo Experience.
  • Get comfortable and distract yourself. Some people say that the first thirty minutes of an ankle tattoo hurt the most, but then the pain fades into the distance. Also, keeping yourself distracted stops you from focusing on the bone rattling which is the worst of all.'
  • Be well-rested and well-fed on arrival. Rest helps your body’s immune system respond better to trauma. Eating a nutrient-packed meal keeps your blood sugar high and also helps you deal with inflammation and irritation more efficiently.
  • Take breaks during your tattoo session. Don’t be afraid to ask your artist for a break if the pain is becoming unbearable. Your comfort is important to them.
  • Moisturize your skin leading up to the session. Ankle and the skin in this region is generally not exposed to a lot of oxygen and therefore may suffer from dehydration. Moisturizing a week in advance of your session will help prep your skin for the experience.

Ankle Tattoo Aftercare

Aftercare of an ankle tattoo is even more particular because it’s a very sensitive part of the body that experiences a lot of friction and movement.

  1. Elevate - Keep your ankle raised to reduce any swelling, which is a result of the pooling of blood in the area.
  2. Proper Footwear - Ensure you bring proper footwear to the session and avoid constricting shoes or socks that will rub up against your wound for the first two weeks, at least.
  3. Clean - Ankle tattoos should be cleaned twice a day, as well as after any excursion outdoors or after a day of work, because it is more prone to bacteria and irritant exposure.
  4. Ice - Use a cold compress or ice on your tattoo if you notice excessive redness, swelling, or experience too much pain. For more information, check out our article, Should You Ice A New Tattoo? - Safety Tips For Swollen Ink.

You should also keep in mind that ankle tattoos fade, feather, and disappear a lot quicker than most body parts. This is because:

  • The area experiences a lot of friction and movement
  • It is difficult to deposit the ink because the skin is so thin
  • The tattoo experiences a lot of UV ray exposure in the summer

You may need frequent touch ups of an ankle tattoo, so it’s important to consider this factor.

Our Final Thoughts

Ankle tattoos look cool and are also easily hidden, making these a discreet tattoo option, but they certainly rank high on the pain scale. Since the pain threshold is a different experience for every person, whether you decide to get an ankle tattoo and how much it will hurt you is completely personal. It’s important to consider that an ankle tattoo takes some extra aftercare attention, and may be prone to more fading.

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