Spine Tattoo Pain - How Much Does It Hurt?

Written by: Claudia
Last Updated:

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

Do Spine Tattoos Hurt?

Getting a tattoo along your spinal cord is tricky for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it’s a bumpy and weirdly shaped zone that can present difficulties during tattooing. Secondly, your spinal cord houses a great amount of sensory nerves that connect these nerves to the rest of your body. It’s for this reason that most people associate a spine tattoo as being extremely painful.

Skin in this region is also very thin which makes depositing the ink a greater challenge for the artist and makes the needle’s access to the nerve receptors much more intense. The pain felt during a tattoo session for your spine could ultimately be felt in other parts of your body.

tattoo pain chart

What Does Spine Tattoo Pain Feel Like?

Tattoo pain is an individual experience, but there are a few common reactions that people who have gotten spine tattoos have reported.

Stinging Pain

This is the most common pain associated with tattoos, especially with spine tattoo sessions. This feels like being pricked with a sewing needle numerous times, and then feeling the “bee sting” sensation of that prick, afterwards.

This pain usually stops after your tattoo session is done but could be felt in the first few hours of healing.

Burning Pain

A burning sensation is a common pain associated with tattooing, and though it is less likely with spine tattoos, it may present itself on your lower spine area. A tattoo needle is essentially scraping off your epidermis and creating a wound in your skin. Some people report that this feels like a severe sunburn that cannot receive any relief, while you are being tattooed.

This burn may continue for one or two days after you’re finished tattooing.

Scratching Pain

Feeling very much like cat nails against your skin, scratching pain is a common sensation that is felt during coloring or shading in tattoo sessions. This is because the needles being used are multiple needles in a square-shaped head. Simple designs, or work done with single needles will likely not feel a scratching pain.

Dull or Mild Pain

While some people report that a tattoo artist moving over the bones and bumps of a spine makes for an uncomfortable experience, many people say that otherwise, the pain is dull or very mild. When distracted, the discomfort becomes almost unnoticeable. This of course depends on your own individual pain tolerance and how you respond to pain and annoying sensations.

Check out our Tattoo Pain Chart to see how much tattoos hurt on different parts of the body

What Factors Influence the Amount of Pain You Feel?

The Tattoo Itself

The primary factor that influences how much or how little pain you feel during a spine tattoo depends on the complexity of the design and how long the session takes. When you enter a tattoo session, your body responds to the initial trauma with an adrenaline response. As time goes on, that adrenaline fades and the session will become more painful. If you think you have an intricate design that will take a long time to complete, you could always consider dividing the piece into more manageable chunks.

Your State of Mind

Whether you truly live by the saying mind over matter, generally handle stress and pain well, and whether you’re familiar with getting tattoos before will all make a difference in how much pain you feel for a spine tattoo. Studies have actually determined that multiple body modifications alter your pain threshold!

Pre-Session Prep

There are a few ways that you could do to prep yourself and your skin for your tattoo session. You should make sure to:

  • Drink a lot of water and avoid alcohol or caffeine
  • Hydrate your skin by moisturizing it frequently for up to a week before
  • Get a good night’s rest
  • Download movies or shows onto your phone to distract you
  • If your tattoo artist gives you permission, you could use a tattoo numbing cream on your skin

Do’s and Don’ts for Reducing the Pain of a Spine Tattoo

You may be tempted to head into a session under the influence in order to dull the sensation but this is not only illegal for more regulated and license-abiding shops, but will actually make the experience more painful for you. You should also avoid blood thinning medication like Aspirin as this can complicate the tattooing process.

If possible, bring a friend to help keep you motivated and distracted during your session. Ask your tattoo artist beforehand, as some people don’t like an “audience”. You are also free to ask your artist for breaks if you need them.

You should also consider getting a smaller design and building upon it later, to get a better feel for how painful this area is and how much you are able to handle.

Our Final Thoughts

A tattoo on your spine creates a work of art that flows with the nooks, crannies, and movement of the human body, and adds a sense of elegance to a large piece of real estate. You’ll never know just how painful this spot could be until you head into the chair, yourself. If you’re ever concerned, speak to your tattoo artist about your pain fears and they will likely give you recommendations on how to make the experience more comfortable for you.

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