Do Rib Cage Tattoos Hurt?

April 3, 2022
Max Stevens
do rib cage tattoos hurt

Thinking about getting your ribs tattooed? We know it’s cool and stylish, and it even looks like a war trophy of some sort.

If you like to have a rib cage tattoo, you have to be aware of the factors. And you need to be most aware of the most significant concern in every tattoo procedure: “just how much do rib cage tattoos hurt?”

Suppose you aren’t aware of this single greatest concern. In that case, you might be going for a rough ride you don’t want to go to if your pain sensitivity is high and you know you’re low on pain tolerance.

Getting a rib cage tattoo without knowing how much it hurts can lead to embarrassing situations. Situations like leaving the tattoo chair abruptly because of pain or leaving the shop with an incomplete tattoo.

It sucks, right? Not to mention you may totally hate and despise tattoos forever after that. And we don’t want that to happen.

That’s why we made this guide to help you out with your decision. Read on!

Do Rib Cage Tattoos Hurt?

If you want quick answers, then yes, rib cage tattoos definitely hurt. In fact, rib cage tattoos are probably one of the most painful tattoos. If you ask why it has something to do with the structure of the ribs.

man getting tattoo on his rib cage with tattoo gun

The ribs, known in the scientific community as the thoracic cage, are a bony structure beneath the chest. Its sole purpose is to protect vital organs such as the heart and lungs from external trauma.

The middle part of the rib cage is called the sternum, another susceptible area for tattoos because of its bony structure.

Since the rib cage is a bony structure, a rib cage tattoo would definitely hurt badly. That’s because the tip of the tattoo pen will deliver pressure and impact to these bony structures, making it hurt badly.

To gauge the pain involved, you can use your index and middle fingers to push your ribs with pressure—it hurts, right? For the sternum, you can use the blunt end of a pen and push down with force… we’re guessing it hurts terribly too.

So to reduce the rib cage tattoo pain, continue reading down below.

How to Reduce Rib Tattoo Pain?

Since rib tattoos really hurt, it makes sense to want to reduce the pain you’ll experience, right? So here are some pain-reducing tips you can do to make your rib tattoo experience better:

Have 8 hours of healthy sleep the day before your procedure.

Sleeping is part of human life, but we can’t deny that many people don’t value their sleep. You’ll need to adjust your sleeping game for someone getting a tattoo if you don’t want your tattoo to hurt too much.

woman lifting weights with floral rib cage tattoo

Studies suggest that being sleep-deprived increases the way we feel pain. So if you lack sleep, you’ll be in pain more than people who have actually slept well the night before.

Make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep to enjoy the benefits of a less painful rib tattoo experience.

Eat a healthy meal before and after the procedure.

Eating healthy meals before and after the procedure does wonders for your body.

First, food makes our body up and running. It acts as fuel to keep our bodies working. If you’re hungry, you’ll feel irritated mid-session. We’re also guessing you wouldn’t like your artist to hear your tummy growl during the session, right?

Second, healthy meals can aid your body’s healing process. Such as in the case of vitamin C-rich foods that help our immune system to better heal wounds.

Use oral or topical painkillers to reduce pain.

It’s good to note that painkillers don’t wholly eradicate pain. They just reduce it.

So one good way to reduce rib tattoo pain is to use an oral or topical painkiller. Painkillers work after a couple of minutes. That’s why it’s wise to take them 30 minutes before the procedure.

The most common oral painkiller is paracetamol, while lidocaine is the most common for topical ones. But be sure not to take both because although there are no known drug interactions between the two, this doesn’t mean interactions can’t occur or do not exist.

Avoid alcohol before your tattoo procedure.

If you think you can reduce the pain, you experience if you’re drunk, you’re partly right and partly wrong.

Yes, alcohol reduces pain, though it’s only a fractional difference from being sober. Alcohol does increase pain, though if you have withdrawal symptoms, but other than that, the alcohol does no good.

It’s because alcohol thins the blood causing your tattoo to bleed more. In return, it would mean the tattoo ink would have difficulties binding to your skin, which heeds for revisions from your artist, leading to more pain if your pain tolerance is low.

Does a Rib Tattoo Fade?

Yes, every tattoo fades at some point. And rib tattoos are no exception though they would last longer than other sun-exposed tattoos such as the hands, fingers, and forearms.

One way to prolong your tattoo is to make sure you don’t scrub it harshly and protect it with sunblock if sunlight does reach it.

Do Upper Chest Tattoos Hurt?

Yes, upper chest tattoos definitely hurt. The good news is that if your chest area has the appropriate fat or muscles, getting tattooed on the upper chest area will not hurt that much. You can read more in our do chest tattoos hurt guide.

However, if you’re skinny, the results would be the opposite, as the bones will be impacted by the tip of the tattoo pen. Suppose you know you can’t tolerate the inevitable pain. In that case, you can settle for other less sensitive areas such as the calves, thighs, or forearms.

The Rib Tattoo Bottom Line

In summary, getting tattooed on the ribs delivers a great deal of pain. So if you know you can’t tolerate severe pain, there’s no shame in trying out getting tattooed on other less painful parts of the body.

Nonetheless, suppose you are confident about the level of your pain tolerance. In that case, you can go ahead and get a rib cage tattoo. Good luck and enjoy your fresh rib cage tattoo!


  • Thoracic cage

  • Sternum

  • Health Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  • Vitamin C and Skin Health

  • Drug Interactions Between Lidocaine and Paracetamol,Always%20consult%20your%20healthcare%20provider.

  • Using Alcohol to Relieve Your Pain: What Are The Risks?

  • Acute alcohol effects on conditioned pain modulation, but not temporal summation of pain


Max Stevens

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