Shin Tattoo Pain - How Much Do They Hurt?

Written by: Claudia
Last Updated:

You’ve narrowed down your placement and decided on tattooing your shin. 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.

Learn About the Shin Area

There is a reason that professional sports players wear protective padding on their shins: this area is sensitive and it hurts a lot when trauma is inflicted upon it. In fact, our shin bone, or the tibia, is the second largest bone in the human body and it has numerous nerve endings situated around it.

tattoo pain chart

Shins are said to be one of the most sensitive parts of the human body. Traumatic impact or stress to a shin bone can cause pain in other parts of your body and even restrict overall movement. As such, tattoos on our shins are quite painful.

Reasons Why Shin Tattoos Are Considered Painful

How does overall shin sensitivity impact your tattooing? Well, there are a few factors that bring about extreme tattooing pain for your shins.

Minimal Fat Padding

Between your skin and your bone, especially at the arch point directly in the center of your lower leg, there is very little muscle or fat. There is almost no padding between the two. Muscle and fat create a barrier on the intense friction and impact that a tattooing needle has on skin.

Large Concentration of Nerves

Your sciatic nerve runs down from your waist into your lower body parts, controlling movement, sensitivity, and numbness. This creates a large concentration of nerve endings in your shin region. When the nerve endings feel the pain of tattooing, due to little muscle or fat to protect them, the signals get sent up your entire body. As such, shin tattooing pain can sometimes feel like a full-body pain.

Rattling Sensations

The other negative of tattooing almost directly onto a bone is that you feel the rattling movement of the tattoo gun. This is a rough, hammer-like sensation that can be felt through your entire leg. The experience is not pleasant at all, and for long sessions, it can cause numbness or intolerable discomfort.

Of course your tattoo artist is not tattooing your bone, but with the intensity of the movement on the area and the painful feeling that it causes your entire lower leg, it can certainly feel like it is hitting your bone. Some people are so bothered by this sensation that it can cause mental exhaustion during tattooing.

Learn more about tattoo body placement and pain

Large Surface Area

Generally, when people choose to tattoo their shins, they are picking a piece that will cover the majority of their lower leg. This means that you will be exposed to discomfort for a longer period of time. Due to the complexity of working on the shin region, if your piece has many details, your artist will also need to take their time working on the region, extending your session and prolonging your discomfort.

How to Make Shin Tattoos Hurt Less

Pick an Experienced Artist

The number one solution for minimizing the pain of a shin tattoo is to find an artist who has experience tattooing this area, so they will know how gentle they need to be. In addition, an experienced artist will know where to deposit the ink in your dermis in a manner that causes less trauma through the rattling on your shin bone.

Choose a Small or Simple Design

If you are unsure how much you will be able to stand when it comes to the pain of tattooing your shin, choose a small or simple design to begin with and then work up to expanding on this region down the line. When you are getting a feel for your tolerance, be sure to pick a design that covers not only the sides of your shin but also the center point, as this is the most sensitive spot.

Use a Numbing Cream

Numbing creams or sprays are over-the-counter anesthetics and they minimize the sensitivity of nerve endings upon application. Because they can contract your blood vessels, some artists do not like tattooing skin that has used numbing cream. It’s for this reason that we suggest discussing this option with your artist and how they feel about it used specifically for shin tattoos.

For more information on numbing creams or recommendations, check out our article on The 5 Best Tattoo Numbing Creams For A Painless Tattoo Experience.

Our Final Thoughts

Though the pain level for shin tattoos is quite high, they’re not completely intolerable as soon as you’re able to get over the rattling sensation. Tattoos are a personal choice and, truth be told, shin tattoos look pretty darn awesome. If you are unsure of how much pain you will be able to tolerate but are still considering a shin tattoo, ask your artist if they could start with a small design and expand upon it later.

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