Do Chest Tattoos Hurt?

April 3, 2022
Max Stevens
do chest tattoos hurt

So it’s finally come to getting the answer to ‘do chest tattoos hurt?’ Chest tattoos are really fantastic to look at, and they exude a passionate, wild and free vibe from the wearer of the tattoo. It’s pretty famous too, as many famous or not people flaunt and show off their chest tattoos often.

For example, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is known for his chest tattoo that extends from his left chest up to his arm and back. It’s pretty slick, right?

We know it’s cool, but before you decide to get one to possibly look like The Rock, don’t forget about the pain involved in a chest tattoo. Suppose you miscalculate the pain involved in a chest tattoo. You risk ruining your skin by leaving the chair with a half-complete tattoo, or you risk totally hating tattoos after that.

The Rock actor doing weights with tribal chest tattoo

Imagine the disappointment and embarrassment of leaving a tattoo shop with an incomplete tattoo and shattered self-confidence because of the tattoo pain. We know it sucks.

To avoid those unfortunate events, it helps to know about the points and factors you need to know about chest tattoo pain. We’ve written this detailed chest tattoo pain guide to help you out, so read on!

Are Chest Tattoos Really Painful?

caucasian man with chest and sleeve tattoo wearing mask

A masked man with surrealist chest and arm tattoos. Photo by Pagie Page on Unsplash.

If you need a simple and straightforward answer to your question, then the answer is yes, chest tattoos hurt. No traditional tattoo is pain-free, except if you’re thinking about henna tattoos.

Chest tattoos hurt because of the chest’s inherent anatomical figure, and to make things easier to understand, we can always try an experiment so you get to know what we mean.

You can grab a pen and draw some lines or shapes on your chest for this little experiment. As you draw, note how much it hurts while the pen’s tip slides down your skin repeatedly.

It hurts, right? The chest area, scientifically called the thorax, is a sensitive part of the body since it houses the ribcage. This bony structure protects your heart and lungs.

A more sensitive area within the ribcage is your sternum, the central part of the rib cage that you can feel when you touch the space between your breasts.

Since the chest area is bony, getting tattooed can be painful since the tip of the tattoo pen is close to the bones in the area, impacting those bone structures. Skin and muscles are not as dense unless you’re a regular gym-goer.

Tips For A Great Chest Tattoo Session

man with block chest tattoo and tribal pattern shoulder tattoo

A man with great-looking chest, neck, and arm tattoos. Photo by Seyi Ariyo on Unsplash.

Since chest tattoos definitely hurt, we’ve compiled these tips you can use to make your chest tattoo session less painful and more enjoyable!

Pick your Tattoo design and size carefully.

Tattoo detail and size can either reduce or agitate the pain you can experience in the procedure.

Highly detailed tattoos require the tattoo artists to repeatedly run down the tattoo pen in a single path for contouring and colouring, similar to the image above.

Tattoo size also contributes to pain. The more skin surface area is tattooed, the more it will hurt since tattoos are technically considered wounds. Simply, large wounds lead to more tattoo pain.

To go around this, you can opt to have low detailed or minimalistic tattoos or smaller tattoos to experience less pain during the procedure.

Use an oral or topical analgesic before the procedure.

Suppose you want to reduce the pain involved in a chest tattoo session. In that case, you may opt to use painkillers.  

You can either use oral or topical painkillers. Still, we don’t recommend taking both simultaneously since topical painkillers can enter the bloodstream and contribute to drug overdose if you also take an oral painkiller.

Oral and topical painkillers are available in pharmacies. At the same time, your tattoo artist may have a topical painkiller on hand since chest tattoos are painful.

Sleep well the night before your session.

Sleep studies suggest that a significant lack of sleep causes our bodies to not fare well in handling and processing pain.

In fact, it is noted that sleep-deprived people tend to feel more pain than people who completed the recommended sleep duration of 8 hours. Simply put, those who lacked sleep felt more pain.

Ensure you get adequate sleep for at least 8 hours so your body will never have problems with too much pain during the tattoo procedure.

Get tattooed by a professional, not an amateur.

A chest tattoo procedure is tricky, so you need the best hands you can access for this procedure.

An amateur may not have the skills, knowledge, and experience compared to professionals who built those through years of practice and service. So why settle for less?

Professionals also know the nuances of tattoo aftercare more than amateurs. This leads to better aftercare tips being relayed to you by your pro artist.

Another benefit worth mentioning is that professionals do the job safely and accurately. Still, they also most likely have better customer service and customer empathy, leading to a better tattooing experience.

Utilize the power of mental distraction.

If you want to reduce the pain during your tattoo procedure, you may use the power of cognitive distraction.

This works by refocusing your brain from the actual procedure itself to something you want to do, like chatting with someone or listening to music. When the brain refocuses, it doesn’t process pain that much since it is spending time focusing on a designated important task.

Although people say we can efficiently multitask, the brain says otherwise. That’s why we can distract our brain from one specific task to another and reduce the pain we experience.

Swearing because you’re in pain is also a form of mental distraction. Studies even suggest that swearing may be an excellent way to counter and reduce pain.

Do Upper Chest Tattoos Hurt?

Definitely, but the upper chest can be fatty or muscular, depending on the person, contributing to reduced upper chest tattoo pain.

However, if you’re skinny, expect your upper chest tattoo to hurt badly since the pricking of the tip of the tattoo pen will deliver pressure to your bones beneath.

The Takeaway – Do Chest Tattoos Hurt?

Summarising all we’ve said, chest tattoos indeed hurt. The chest is home to the rib cage, protecting our vital organs from external trauma, such as the heart and lungs. This bony structure is what makes chest tattoos hurt.

Nonetheless, there are numerous ways to reduce pain. If you do the things we mentioned intimately, we’re sure you’ll have a positive experience with your chest tattoo afterwards.

As tattoo enthusiasts, we want you to get positive results. We want every tattoo procedure to end on a good note.

As always, enjoy your tattoo!


  • Thorax

  • Sternum

  • Using medication: The safe use of over-the-counter painkillers

  • Total sleep deprivation increases pain sensitivity, impairs conditioned pain modulation and facilitates temporal summation of pain in healthy participants

  • Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: a systematic review and two meta-analyses

  • Multicosts of Multitasking

  • Swearing as a Response to Pain: Assessing Hypoalgesic Effects of Novel “Swear” Words


Max Stevens

You might also like

do calf tattoos hurt
Max Stevens

Do Calf Tattoos Hurt?

You may be a newbie or a tattoo master, but if this is your first tattoo on your calf, then you’re rightfully asking the questions

Read More »