You’ve narrowed down your placement and decided on tattooing your knee or knees. 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.
Table of Contents (clickable)
How Painful Are Knee Tattoos?
We’re going to be honest with you right off the bat: knee tattoos are one of the most painful places to get tattooed. In general, where you get tattooed on your knee will make or break how painful the experience is.
When tattooing just above your knee, prior to going on the kneecap, the pain stings and burns but is tolerable. This area is often fleshy, has muscle to build comfort, and has lower pain receptors.
As you move onto your kneecap, the sensation completely transforms. Due to this prominent bone, a rattling or vibration sensation can occur as you are being tattooed. This can extend through all other parts of your body, even if you are solely tattooing on the kneecap region. Some people say that this rattling or needle jumping can make you feel completely mentally defeated during your session.
Around the back of your knee, which goes through a lot of movement and has very thin skin, the experience will actually feel less painful. During a medical research study where a man used a bee to sting himself on various regions of the body to track the pain intensity, the back of the knee ranked at a five out of 10 scale. This is actually below average for the other areas and pretty tolerable when it comes to pain.
If you plan to get tattooed just below your kneecap, be prepared for another painful area. Your patellar tendon runs through this area, making for an awkward tattooing experience that has increased sensitivity.
Check out our Tattoo Pain Chart to see how much tattoos hurt on different parts of the body
When You Get a Knee Tattoo, What Does It Feel Like?
The experience of being tattooed is different for each and every person and can be dependent on a variety of factors such as personal pain threshold, immunity, age, gender, and skin condition. When it comes to tattoo pain, people report a few common feelings.
This is probably the most common pain sensation that is experienced when tattooing, because it can be felt no matter where you are tattooed. It’s as if you are taking a sewing needle and scratching the surface of your skin, over and over.
This pain is often amplified if you are using a square-ended needle that has multiple little needles for coloring or shading. In addition, if your artist overworks your skin, this can make the scratching feel more intense. This pain normally ends as soon as your tattoo is completed.
People who say tattoos don’t hurt are generally referring to the fact that it feels like a dull pain. This means they’re not focused on the pain, or keep themselves distracted. In the end, the tattoo ends up feeling more like an annoying factor that you want to swipe away rather than something unbearable.
This is often experienced during tattooing when the skin is very thin, when you are getting coloring, or when your tattoo is having shading done. This is often described as a really severe sunburn, where it feels hot and swollen. Burning pains can sometimes continue for a few days after you’re done with your tattoo.
Much like being stung by a wasp or a bee, a tattoo could feel like an endless, tiny stinging sensation. We wrote all about stinging pain in our article, Why Does My New Tattoo Sting? - Minimizing The Pain Of New Ink.
Universal consensus on vibrating pain is that it’s more annoying than it is painful, but that the annoyance can cause you mental exhaustion. This pain happens when your artist tattoos over boney areas, like the kneecap. It can also happen more often in thin people getting tattooed.
What Things Affect the Amount of Pain You Feel?
Though pain is an individual experience, some factors may influence just how much or how little tattooing pain you feel.
- Your own pain tolerance: Consider when you get a papercut, scratch yourself, or bruise a body part - how much does it hurt?
- Sex: Sorry guys, but women generally have a higher pain tolerance than men.
- Age: Younger skin is easier to tattoo, but older people generally have become more adaptive to pain, and have duller pain receptors.
- Weight: Fleshier areas generally feel less pain as the nerve receptors are lower beneath the layer of fat, and bonier areas are usually more uncomfortable.
- Your upbringing: Believe it or not, how you were taught to deal with pain as a young child will influence how you manage it as an adult.
- Your state of mind: If you are nervous or anxious, which is an emotional fear-based experience, you will actually feel more pain. Mind over matter is not just a cliche saying.
- Your experience: It’s pretty self-explanatory that the more tattoos you have, the more familiar you will be with how to deal with tattoo pain. Skin has a touch memory, afterall.
What Can You Do to Make Being Inked Hurt Less?
Finding out how to make your tattoo hurt less is usually a matter of trial and error, but here are some suggestions before you head into your session.
- Get a good night’s rest.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Skip the alcohol and blood-thinning medication.
- Take breaks if you need to.
- Schedule your session in the morning when your adrenaline is high.
- Choose an experienced artist with a gentle technique.
- Use a numbing product, if your artist gives you the go-ahead.
- Keep yourself distracted or invite a friend to keep you company.
- Get a simple design and build upon it later.
- Don’t do matching knee tattoos until you are familiar with your pain threshold in this region.
- Remember to maintain proper aftercare and keep your tattoo clean.
Our Final Thoughts
A tattoo on or around your knee will likely be an uncomfortable experience, but you’ll only know for sure if you try it for yourself. Pain is such a subjective thing that it may be nothing at all, for you. If you’re ever concerned about whether you’ll be able to handle the experience, discuss your fears with your tattoo artist, who will provide you with suggestions to help ease your worries.