10 Ways to Deal With Tattoo Pain

My tips to help you prepare for future appointments.

hand by Jak Connolly

I have had approximately 450 hours worth of tattoo work done on my body.  (much more than when this video was recorded).   I’ve  gotten through every single session other than one, which the artist decided to cut short (I explain in the video).  There are several techniques that I’ve learned that can be very helpful for dealing with the pain.  

Most people understand that there is a certain amount of pain involved with all tattoos.   Some peope describe the pain of getting a tattoo  to having a needle dragged across your skin, along with the sound of the needle which can cause more anxiety for some people.  The pain of getting a tattoo  is certainly not intolerable for most people.  We all  have different pain tolerances, so the pain associated with getting tattooed various person to person.   But there are things that everyone can do to help deal with the pain of getting a tattoo.

Here is a recap of 10 things I’ve learned can help you deal with tattoo pain:

  1.  Mentally prepare– Just face it…getting a tattoo is going to involve a certain amount of pain.  It’s important to be aware of that, and to go into your appointment prepared to deal with a certain amount pain.  It is very important to try to keep your mind calm.  
  2. Go into each session with a plan of getting through it.  When I go into a session, I go in with the mindset that I’m going to do whatever it takes to get through it so that I can leave with a new piece of body art.  In the end it’s always worth it.
  3. Listen to music– Music is a great distraction.  I make some playlists and put my head phones on and focus on the lyrics, beat, etc. 
  4. Watch movies or Netflix– Watching movies is a way that I pass many hours while I’m getting tattooed.  Being able to watch movies on a phone or computer depends on where on your body that you are getting tattooed, and whether or not it’s convenient to position it to be able to see it.  I reccommend noise canceling headphones too.  
  5. Talk to your artist– if your artist is ok with it and wants to, you can converse to pass the time.  Talking too much isn’t a great idea though because you dont want to disturb or pester the artist.  I can usually tell if the artist is someone that likes to talk a bit, or if they prefer to work in silence.  If they’re giving you one word replies it’s probably best to leave them alone.
  6. Bring a friend or loved one–  most artists are ok with clients bringing a friend or loved one with them to their appointment to keep them company, and to help distract them.  What you don’t want to do is bring a group of people with you, or no children.  
  7. Chew gum– another distraction tactic. This sounds kind of weird but I like to chew gum during my appointment.  I focus on my pattern of chewing and for some reason that constant physical movement seems to help me.  
  8. Ask for periodic breaks– It’s ok to ask for these.  Be sure you let artist get in the rythym and don’t ask for too much time off, but an occasional break to go to the bathroom, and re-group is helpful for the mind and body.  
  9. Numbing cream and numbing spray– There are a variety of topical pain relief options available.  – Not all artists are open to this because it takes time for the effects to take place, and needs special care.  They can also cause the area to swell, making it harder to tattoo. .  The effects of numbing products tend to work for a realatively short period, usually less than an hour.  Many artists say that after they wear off that their clients seem to struggle more with the pain than those that don’t use it.  
  10. Focus on your breathing– tune everything else and focus on the pattern of your breathing.  Be sure you don’t hold your breath becase that can lead to dizziness or passing out.  


  • Get a great night of sleep before your tattoo appointment day.
  • Eat plenty of food the day before and right before your appointment.  Getting tattooed takes a lot of energy and burns a lot of calories.  Be sure you’re body is prepared for it with plenty of fuel.  For longer sessions I also take some snacks to my session for added energy throughout my appointment. 
  • Drink a lot of water.  It’s not good to drink alcohol during, but you DO want to drink plenty of water.  Start the night before, and stay well hydrated.  This allows the skin to accept the ink easier.
  • You can take a couple of Tylenol before your session.  Be sure you DON’T take medications that contain blood thinners as they can cause you to bleed more.  
  • Don’t drink.  You might think that having a few drinks might help with your pain tolerance, but it is definitely not a good idea.  Getting drunk and getting something regretable inked on your body is only part of the problem with drinking before getting a tattoo.  Alcohol thins your blood which can cause more bleeding.  It also can cause people to make unpredictable movements which is obviously a huge problem for the artist trying to create art.  Most tattoo artists will turn away a client that they feel has consumed alcohol or drugs anyway.
  • Avoid stimulants like energy drinks and excessive caffeine.  Stimulants increase alertness, anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure which makes sitting still for a tattoo difficult.  
  • Learn about various tattoo locations.  Some areas of your body hurt much more than others.  I’ve had most parts of my body tattooed, and I can tell you that certain areas hurt much more than others.  Feet, stomach, hands, and side are a few of the more  painful areas.  Of course this can varry person to person.   Less painful areas  include arms, legs, pects, and hips.  

Although it really isn’t possible to aleviate all of the pain associated with getting a tattoo, there are many things you can do before and during your appointment that will help deal with tattoo pain.  Probably the most important thing is to stay as calm and relaxed as possible.  The mind is a powerful tool.  I’ve practiced this technique during every single one of my sessions, and it defintely helps.

Relax…it’s really not that bad…if it were, so many people wouldn’t have tattoos. 😉 Good luck and be sure to follow my pages on Instagram @jordanfeno and @leadthefollowers for tons more unique tattoo related content.  

Check out my tips for healing  a new tattoo My Personal Do’s and Don’ts When Healing Tattoos

1 Comment
  1. Megan Alder says

    My husband and I are planning to get a matching, big tattoo, but before doing it we want to be mentally ready to handle the pain. I like that your biggest advice was to be mentally prepared, and how it is so important to keep your mind calmed. I will definitely talk about it with my husband so that we both start changing our mindset, and get ready for that moment, once we find a good tattoo artist.

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