How Bad Does An Elbow Tattoo Hurt?

Art that requires a little sacrifice: wear your pain like a badge of honor!

Reviewed by Scott Terry, Professional Tattoo Artist Scott Terry Scott TerryProfessional Tattoo Artist facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BA (English Hons) Pahul Nanra BA (English Hons) Experience: 2 years
Edited by , BA, MSc Eshna Das BA, MSc Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , MSc Manjari Uppal MSc Experience: 3 years

Many folks contemplate the idea of inking their elbows but often pause to ponder, “How bad does an elbow tattoo hurt?” The discomfort of getting inked in this area is a common concern among many people. Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned tattoo enthusiast, understanding the intensity of elbow tattoo pain can be a key factor in deciding your tattoo placement. In this article, learn more about tattooing on this particular joint and the sensations that may come with it. We will also learn why it hurts and simple yet effective tips to reduce it. Scroll down to know more.

Why Do Elbow Tattoos Hurt?

A woman getting an elbow tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

Elbow tattoos can be particularly painful due to the abundance of nerve endings and thinner and looser skin in the area. The elbow’s proximity to the bones and the absence of substantial muscle padding or fat contribute to heightened degrees of sensitivity during the tattooing process. Additionally, the delicate skin on the elbow keeps moving and stretching around the joint during the tattooing process. As a result, it gets challenging to maintain a consistent tattooing surface, which further amplifies the pain. These factors collectively make elbow tattoos more uncomfortable than tattoos on other body parts with thicker skin and more muscle. The changes in the blood flow and the limited cushioning and proximity to the bones may also make the pain seem more pronounced and affect the overall experience.

Having understood the reasons behind the discomfort of elbow tattoos, you might be curious about the level of pain they entail. Find out how bad an elbow tattoo hurts in the next section.

How Bad Do Elbow Tattoos Hurt?

Tattooist working on woman's elbow
Image: Shutterstock

Elbow tattoos, unfortunately, rank high on the pain spectrum due to heightened nerve sensitivity and intricate bone structure, presenting a major challenge for tattoo artists. The elbow consists of two primary areas – the outer elbow and the inner part known as the ditch. You may experience pain in both areas at varying levels during tattooing.

The intense vibrations from the tattooing needle striking the bone can make the experience more distressing than painful, leading to mental fatigue. In terms of pain, the outer elbow is typically rated at four on a scale of one to five.

Tattooing the inner elbow region or the elbow ditch, can become nearly intolerable. It stands out as one of the most sensitive spots and painful regions to tattoo, as a few nerves (median nerve, ulnar nerve, etc.) in the arm run through that area. Also, the skin on that area is thinner, lacking sufficient muscle and fat. The elbow ditch tattoo pain is also estimated at around four on a scale of one to five.

Also, how much pain people may experience depends on their pain tolerance levels or pain threshold. Apart from that, the type of tattoo work also impacts your pain levels during elbow tattoos. Simple elbow tattoo designs are likely to hurt less than tattoos with intricate details and thick lines, such as a spider web tattoo on the elbow.

Moreover, factors such as thinner skin, proximity to the bones and joints, and the constant movement of the skin as the joint bends during tattooing also contribute to the pain. Despite individual pain tolerance, the elbow’s unique structure makes it a challenging and often painful spot for getting inked.

Kelsey, a YouTuber, documented her elbow tattoo experience in her video. She said, “I have come to the conclusion that the inner part of the elbow, the inner part is what hurts but not as bad as I thought! I think that shading is worse (i)!”

protip_icon Quick Tip
Ice the area before and after the painful tattooing session to reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief from elbow tattoo pain.

Getting an elbow tattoo can be a very painful experience. But don’t worry. The tips mentioned in the section below may help reduce the pain associated with elbow tattoos and enhance your comfort during the painful process.

Tips To Reduce Elbow Tattoo Pain

1. Talk To Your Tattoo Artist

Talk to your tattoo artist before getting an elbow tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

Establish open communication with your tattoo artist. Let them know if you are experiencing excessive pain. Discussing the procedure beforehand will allow them to adjust their technique to make the painful tattooing process more comfortable.

2. Take Short Breaks

Take short breaks to stretch and relax your muscles during lengthy and painful tattoo sessions. This can help alleviate tension and enhance your comfort level, reducing the perception of pain.

3. Use Topical Anesthetics

Consider applying over-the-counter topical anesthetics like numbing creams or gels to the area before the tattooing session to help reduce pain.

4. Practice Deep Breathing

Engage in controlled, slow, and deep breathing during the process to help relax your body and distract your mind from the pain.

5. Bring Distractions

Distractions during the tattoo process can make the experience more bearable
Image: Shutterstock

Listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts is a great way to distract yourself and divert your attention from the stinging pain. Occupying your mind can make the experience more bearable.

6. Wear Comfortable Clothing

Choose loose-fitting clothing to allow easy access to the tattoo area. This way you may also be able to avoid the risk of irritation caused by friction and discomfort during and after the painful tattoo session.

7. Moisturize Your Skin

Keep your skin moisturized before heading to the tattoo studio. Well-hydrated skin is generally more pliable and less prone to irritation during the tattooing process.

8. Stay Hydrated

Drinking water can help reduce elbow tattoo pain
Image: Shutterstock

Proper hydration can contribute to a more comfortable process. Well-hydrated skin tends to be more supple, making the tattooing experience less painful.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Avoid caffeine and other stimulants before your tattoo appointment, as they may heighten your sensitivity to pain.

9. Choose A Less Sensitive Area

Opt for a location on the elbow that is less sensitive to pain. Avoid the bony protrusions and aim for the softer, fleshy parts surrounding the elbow.

Many people take pain relievers before going for a tattoo session thinking it might help deal with the pain. However, pain relievers may not work. Doctors do not advise taking them before a tattoo session as some medicines may cause blood thinning, which might cause blood loss during the tattooing process. Therefore, check with an experienced tattoo artist or a healthcare professional before the tattoo appointment if it’s safe for you to take over-the-counter pain relievers before the tattooing process to help manage the pain and inflammation.

Getting an elbow tattoo can be a notoriously painful experience. Even if you have an incredible pain tolerance and manage to get through it, getting the tattoo to stay as bright as new can be challenging. Exposure to the environment and friction do cause tattoos to fade over a period of time. But do elbow tattoos fade faster than other areas? Find out in the next section.

Do Elbow Tattoos Fade?

A tattooed woman with elbow and arm tattoos
Image: Shutterstock

Yes, elbow tattoos tend to fade faster than other areas due to constant friction, bending, and exposure to direct sunlight. The skin on the elbow is thick, and the frequent movement can cause the tattoo ink to break down more quickly. Moreover, we often lean on our elbows when working or during daily activities, which may eventually wear down the elbow tattoo sooner or later.


Deciding to get an elbow tattoo means dealing with some discomfort, but it is a small price to pay for a cool design. Instead of worrying about temporary pain, think about the lasting beauty of the tattoo. If you are new to tattoos, it is a good idea to start with a less sensitive skin area to see how it feels before trying the more challenging elbow spot. The answer to “How bad does an elbow tattoo hurt?” is tricky because elbows are sensitive. Thinner skin, proximity to the elbow bones, and movement make getting tattoos in that area tougher. However, the amount of pain may vary based on the individual’s pain tolerance and the specific tattoo design. Some people even opt for creative and intricate designs like cherry blossom tattoos or spider web tattoos to make the elbow tattoo experience more meaningful and visually appealing. Talking to an experienced cosmetic tattoo artist and following practical tips can make the experience easier and more satisfying.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does the pain last during and after an elbow tattoo?

Pain during and after an elbow tattoo can vary, but it typically lasts a few hours to a few days. While the healing process generally takes 2-3 weeks, the pain can be managed with proper pain relief measures. Following your skilled tattoo artist’s proper aftercare instructions and taking steps to promote a smooth healing time, such as keeping the tattoo clean and moisturized, will contribute to a more comfortable and successful recovery.

Are there specific parts of the elbow that are more painful for tattoos?

Tattoo pain on the elbow can be more intense around bony areas and the ditch (inner elbow). Individual pain tolerance varies, but these regions tend to be more sensitive.

Key Takeaways

  • Elbow tattoos are particularly painful as several nerves pass through that area. Also, the elbow skin is thin and loose, lacking extra padding, and is close to the bones.
  • Outer elbow tattoos can be more distressing due to the vibrations from the tattoo needle hitting the bones, while inner elbow tattoos are more painful due to direct access to major nerve systems and thin skin.
  • Elbow tattoos fade quicker than other areas due to constant friction, bending, and sunlight exposure, accelerated by coarse, dry skin and frequent movement.
  • Communicating with your skilled tattoo artist, taking short breaks, etc., can help reduce the stinging pain associated with elbow tattoos.
elbow tattoo pain

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

Have you ever thought about the degree of discomfort associated with elbow tattoos? Delve into this enlightening video to discover the levels of pain and the intensity of the experience when getting inked on the elbow.

Personal Experience: Source

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Scott Terry

Scott TerryProfessional Tattoo Artist

Scott Terry is a distinguished tattoo artist and has over 20 years of experience in the field. He specializes in color and black-and-gray realism. Scott graduated from the Joe Blasco School of Professional Makeup Artistry. His work has graced the pages of esteemed tattoo magazines and earned him accolades at various conventions. His accomplishments include trophies, such as 3rd full bio

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