Do Spine Tattoos Hurt?

April 3, 2022
Max Stevens
do spine tattoos hurt

Are you interested in a spine tattoo and wondering ‘do spine tattoos hurt?’ You’ve probably seen celebs and their sick back tattoos and thought, “I wonder how much that spine tattoo hurts”.

It looks nice, but have you considered the factors involved in a spine tattoo? If you haven’t, you’re in for a rough ride. The most significant factor to note in these types of tattoos is the pain involved.

If you’re not fully aware of how much pain it can give you, you risk ruining your skin and general tattoo experience. Backing out of a tattoo session is not a not-so-cool act, especially as you’ll leave with a half-finished tattoo.

And let’s not forget we’re talking about the spine here, a fundamental structure in the human body responsible for the nervous and structural integrity of the whole body. If you fight your way out of the tattoo chair, you risk causing skin injuries.

So before you get that spine tattooed on, keep reading this detailed guide we prepared for you, so you’re well-aware of the most critical factors in a spine tattooing procedure.

Do Spine Tattoos Hurt Bad?

Pasted image 0
The anatomy of the human spinal cord.

Yes, spine tattoos hurt badly. The spine is part of the nervous and skeletal systems of our body and, as such, provides a three-way function so our body can work properly.

  • The first function of the spine is to be a pathway for the nervous system to deliver information across every inch of the human body. Nerve roots and nerve endings are present in the spinal cord, which the spine also aims to protect.
  • The second function of the spine is to ensure there is optimal structural support and balance for the whole body.
  • The third function of the spine is to ensure the body can do a wide range of motion without difficulties. (also known as flexibility).

These spine functions are what makes this type of tattoo hurt so bad. But the real reason is the nervous system function of the spine that makes it hurt badly. The spine has many pathways of nerve roots and endings that can sense pain.

So if these pathways are directly impacted with the tip of the tattoo pen, experiencing severe pain is inevitable and impossible to get away from. The skin lining above the spine is also thin, which adds to the pain.

How to Reduce Spine Tattoo Pain?

man reaching to his back to press his faded spine tattoo
Man touching his back/spine tattoo. Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels.

Since getting tattooed on the spine really hurts, here are some tips you can do to reduce the pain you can experience during the procedure:

  • Seek out a professional artist. Since the spine is a delicate area, it helps to be in the hands of a professional tattoo artist. Pro artists know what they’re doing, and have experience within spine tattoos giving you assurance and confidence that you’re in good hands.
  • Opt for a minimalistic tattoo design. Highly-detailed tattoos hurt more because the tip of the tattoo pen runs down the same path repeatedly. So the more your tattoo is detailed, the longer the procedure will last, bringing more pain. You can also opt for smaller tattoos to make the procedure as short as possible.
  • Request for a topical anaesthetic. If you don’t have a topical anaesthetic handy, you can request one from your artist/tattoo studio. Since a spine tattoo really hurts, your artist will have no problems following your request. Topical anaesthetics are usually put on 30 minutes before the procedure to reduce pain.

Are Spine Tattoos Dangerous?

Although spine tattoos can be nerve-wracking due to the pain, they are generally safe. If you’re worried that your tattoo may be dangerous because it sits directly above your spine, you shouldn’t be. Injuries occur when you squirm or fight your way out of the tattoo chair.

The tip of the tattoo pen pricks the skin down from the epidermis to the dermis. But it never goes as far down as your spinal cord. Although it may hurt badly, rest assured that the tip of the tattoo pen will only deliver pressure, not ink, through your spine.

man with faded spine tattoo
A faded back/spine tattoo. Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels.

If you squirm while in session, though, the tip of the tattoo pen may move from side to side, and your spine may feel some sort of sting or zapping feeling in the area.

As for precautions, if you have back and spine problems requiring future surgery, probably a good idea to pass up on spine tattoos. It’s hard to protect that tattoo when surgical incisions are made close-by or on the tattoo itself.

Get your surgery first, spend time to heal, and then go on with your spine tattoo.

Do Upper Back Tattoos Hurt?

Yes, upper back tattoos hurt. This type of tattoo hurts just as with any method of tattooing, except henna. The spine runs up from the lower back to the upper back, so it can still be impacted by the tip of the tattoo pen. Read more about do back tattoos hurt.

However, if you get tattooed on the left and right sides of your upper body. Since the spine sits in the middle, it will not hurt as much since there are considerable amounts of fat and tissue in the right and left sides, which can dampen the pain of the tattoo.

The Takeaway

In summary, spine tattoos hurt because they are situated in a delicate but essential part of the body. The good news is that it is safe, but you do have to consider back issues and pregnancy if you want to get a spine tattoo.

If you read all we’ve written here intimately, and you have decided on a spine tattoo, we wish you good luck and enjoy your tattoo!


  • Anatomy of the spine

  • Nerve Ending – an overview

  • Epidermis

  • Dermis

  • Tattoo preservation during surgical procedures

  • Role of body fat distribution and the metabolic complications of obesity


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 »