How Badly Do Shoulder Tattoos Hurt?

Society has become more accepting of tattoos as the number of people in the U.S. with tattoos has increased substantially over the past decade. As of 2022, reportedly 67 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo (via Earthweb). While some workplaces are far more lenient than they used to be on this form of body art, some still require tattoos to be covered up depending on the job at hand. So, it's not surprising that the shoulder is a popular area to get inked, as they're easy to hide (via Authority Tattoo).

While the most common places to get your first tattoo are places like the forearm, thigh, and biceps due to the amount of fat and muscle distributed there (via Healthline), you might prefer how a tattoo looks on the outer shoulder or shoulder blade. As you may have already noticed, an area like the shoulder blade consists of a lot less skin and a lot more bone, which can prove to be a painful experience for some. But just how badly do shoulder tattoos hurt?

Outer shoulder tattoos aren't as painful as you may think

No two people will experience tattoo pain the same way, as everyone's pain tolerance is different. According to Healthline, some studies have shown that women can feel pain "more intensely" than men (via Stanford Medicine), while other research has found that women "are more accepting of pain" (via medical journal PLOS ONE). What really counts is your individual pain tolerance and the placement of your shoulder tattoo. Everyone is different, and what can be intensely painful for some could be completely painless for you.

Regardless, tattoos on the outer shoulder (above the bicep) are one of the least painful places to get tattooed, as the skin is thicker and there are fewer nerve endings (via Healthline). But as you get closer to the armpit, this sensation can change. As the needle moves "closer to the armpit, the skin gets increasingly sensitive [due to an increase in] nerve endings and more thin, delicate skin," tattoo artist, Helen Xu, told Inkbox Tattoo's Inside Out magazine.

There are more nerve endings on the shoulder blade that may increase tattoo pain

As for getting a tattoo on your shoulder blade, it can depend on exactly where your design sits. The blade is covered by a thinner layer of skin than the rest of your shoulder (via body modification site PainfulPleasures), but the surrounding skin "tends to have more cushioning and fewer nerve endings," according to tattoo website Removery. But because the blade is a piece of bone that sits pretty close to the skin's surface, in addition to a concentrated amount of nerve endings, it can be an unpleasant, if not painful experience to have a tattoo there.

Again, this all depends on your pain threshold. And compared to other bony areas of the body like the feet, shins, and ribcage, it's not as painful. However, these areas are often considered the most painful places to get tattooed (via Healthline) and can feel like a constant, deep scratch or even hundreds of bee stings.