How Much Does A Spine Tattoo Hurt? What You Need To Know

How painful is it to get a spine tattoo ? The spine makes an excellent canvas and creates some of the most beautiful tattoos you could find.

The spine makes an excellent canvas and creates some of the most beautiful tattoos you could find. In fact, many people hope to get a spine tattoo someday, which they can proudly show off to others.

But, is the spine the right choice for everyone? How much does a spine tattoo really hurt? Should a beginner get a spine tattoo done? We answer these questions and more in this article. Let’s get right to it.

Is The Spine a Very Painful Location For a Tattoo?

Tattoos tend to hurt the most when they are done in places that have a lot of bones. Or when the skin is thinner and the tattoo needle goes in closer to the underlying bones.

The spinal cord is made up of 33 vertebral bones. Often, we can feel the spinal cord under our skin, when we run our hand over our back. Additionally, the spinal cord is filled with numerous nerve endings. Suffice to say that the spine tattoo will hurt tremendously, because of the presence of so many bones and nerves in the area.

In fact, the spine is considered one of the most painful areas of the body to get a tattoo on. A spine tattoo can start anywhere from the base of the neck and go down to the end of the tail bone, in the lower back. This entire region is completely boney with a comparatively thinner muscle layer protecting it from tattoo pain.

Pain levels: How much pain can you expect in your spine

In terms of how severe the pain will be in different sections of the spine, the top and bottom of the spine (base of the neck and tail bone, respectively), will hurt the most. If we’re evaluating tattoo pain on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the lowest pain and 10 being the highest pain), a spine tattoo is definitely a 10, especially near the start and end of the spinal column. The mid-spine portion maybe 9-10 in pain level.

Sounds scary? It is for some people.

But then again, pain is subjective. There are many people who swear that their spine tattoo hurt as much as any other tattoo did and not more. You’ll need to consider your personal pain threshold before you schedule your spine tattoo.

Spine Tattoo vs Back Tattoo: What’s The Difference?

In another article that we’ve published here on World Tattoo Portal, we’ve talked about back tattoos and how much they might hurt. If you’ve read that article, you may be wondering how a spine tattoo can differ from a back tattoo in terms of pain.

Well, while the spine falls under the umbrella of back tattoos, the spine tattoo is done exclusively along the spinal cord. But a back tattoo uses the entire back as a canvas and you can get your tattoo anywhere along the back, even excluding the spine.

So, in terms of pain, your back tattoo may not necessarily be as painful as your spine tattoo, purely because certain areas of your back have thick muscles and fat deposits, which reduce the severity of the pain. Additionally, apart from the spine – where there’s a concentration of nerve endings – you don’t find too many nerve endings in other areas of your back.

However, the spine is very boney and it doesn’t have so much muscle or fat to cover it. Therefore, whenever the tattoo machine strikes your skin, the nerves and bones in your spinal column will take the brunt of the sensation. So, you’re very likely to experience greater pain during a spine tattoo, compared to a tattoo anywhere on the back.

What Does Pain on The Spine Feel Like During Tattooing ?

When your tattoo artist starts working on your spine, you may first feel a sharp and intense stinging pain. As the tattoo needle works on your skin, there may be a burning sensation because your nerve endings will be on overdrive due to the tattooing process. Over the course of the session, you will notice how the pain starts to radiate across the spine and the rest of the back. There is an intense and consistent stinging pain, coupled with a dull ache during breaks in-between.

Since you need to lie flat on your belly during the spine tattooing process, you may even feel stiffness in your back and minor pain and discomfort in the belly due to the constant pressure of lying down. Together, this can make the session feel uncomfortable.

Will There Be Pain After Getting The Spine Tattoo ?

As with any tattoo, you may experience some pain for a day after getting your spine tattoo. After this, as your skin starts to heal, you may experience some soreness and tightening of the skin as you start to scab.

This scabbing is completely natural. Don’t pick at the scab, as that can increase pain and result in an infection.

How susceptible is the spine tattoo to pain and inflammation from infection?

Speaking of infection, your spine tattoo shouldn’t ever get infected if your artist has done the tattoo using 100% sanitary procedures in a hygienic studio. Plus, if you follow their post-tattoo care instructions carefully, you shouldn’t be seeing any signs of infection like –

  • Pus from the tattoo
  • Bleeding in the tattoo
  • Red lesions on and around the tattoo
  • Inflammation and pain that continues for days or weeks
  • Fever
  • Changes in diet

Two of the highest risks of post-tattoo care, especially with a spine tattoo, have to do with clothing and bathing. The clothes you wear shouldn’t chafe against your skin and you should be careful not to towel your back roughly, which can increase the risk of the tender skin becoming injured.

If you notice a water-like substance leaking from the tattoo, don’t be alarmed. In most cases, it’s just plasma and it’s a sign that your tattoo is healing.

Is Getting A Spine Tattoo Dangerous ?

You might be wondering if getting a tattoo on your spinal cord is dangerous for your spinal health. Well, the answer is – No. A spine tattoo is not dangerous to your spinal health.

Your spinal cord is nestled deep inside the spinal column. Inside the vertebral bones, there are three layers of tissue called the meninges (dura, arachnoid, and pia mater) which encase the white matter, gray matter, and spinal nerve. Plus, the space between the cord and the layers is filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

During tattooing, the tattoo needle does not get anywhere close to the spinal cord to impact it. You experience pain only because of the proximity of the spinal column to the dermis (second layer of skin), where the tattoo ink is deposited.

Your Spine Tattoo Can Accentuate Your Beauty

All this talk of pain and you might be feeling pretty nervous about getting your spine tattooed. You may even have decided to back out of the spine tattoo altogether. Our intention isn’t to scare you, but to keep you informed so you take a decision that is right for you.

In saying that, ultimately, the pain of getting a spine tattoo does come with significant rewards too. The spine tattoo is definitely one of the most aesthetic pieces of body art you can find. The natural curvature of the spine lends a delicate elegance to the spine tattoo. Pair it with the right outfit and your spine tattoo will look unbelievably sexy.

How long Does a Spine Tattoo Take?

Depending on the size and level of detail, a full back piece takes some artist approximately 60 hours to complete. However, it is broken down into sessions that are charged at an hourly rate and spaced out over the course of the healing process.

Upper And Lower Back

As the skin on the upper or lower back is thick with few nerve endings, getting a tattoo causes low-moderate pain to moderate pain. In general, the farther you tattoo from your spine and hips, the less pain you will experience.

Things to Consider

It may take minutes to hours for a tattoo to be applied to your body, but they are guaranteed to last a lifetime. The pain associated with getting a tattoo should not be the only consideration. There are mixed results when it comes to removing a tattoo, as it is a time-consuming and painful process.

Before getting a tattoo, consider:

  • There is a risk of infection, allergic reactions to dyes, scarring, and blood-borne diseases.
  • Is the tattoo design something you will regret in the future.
  • Gaining weight or becoming pregnant may affect the appearance of your tattoo.
  • How you want your tattoo to be placed, as well as whether you want it to be concealable.

Best Spine Tattoo Ideas

The spine is the perfect canvas for lean and elongated tattoos such as –

Chakra Designs

Planets and Stars


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Caduceus Symbol

Snake Tattoos

Dragon Designs


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Spinal Cord Anatomy Tattoo


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Flowers & Vines

Simple Line Work Designs


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