Why Do Leg Tattoos Hurt So Much After?

Before my 50th birthday, I decided to do something to reach this milestone. I had mixed emotions when my friends suggested a tattoo but were excited to take this bold step; besides, I had lived through half a century; how bad could a tattoo be? Despite having a high pain threshold, the after pain was on another level. Which left me with the question Why Do Leg Tattoos Hurt So Much After?

Dealing with a leg tattoo can be quite painful as it is the area with the least amount of fat and the thinnest skin and most nerve endings. The pain is further aggravated if it is done on the bone. If the pain persists, it is probably because the tattoo is infected.

Not sure if it is the quickness of the needle or the high pain threshold, but many people have expressed that they have not felt the actual pain during the process but find that the pain resurfaces after the process. I am curious to know why so much pain is experienced after a leg tattoo; join me to explore the reasons.

Reasons Why Leg Tattoos Hurts So Much After

With approximately 10-15 needle drops per second, tattooing can be quite a painful process. Everyone experiences pain differently; the tattoo’s placement can be a huge contributing factor to the amount of pain that one experiences. Below are some of the reasons why legs tattoos hurt so much after;

The Anatomy Of The Leg

The leg comprises bones that connect to muscles and tissue, with a thin skin covering. The leg has less fat and more muscle with nerve endings; it is no wonder that when you obtain a tattoo in this area, the pain is so intense. I have indicated why you experience pain after a tattoo in each leg part below.

 Ankles And Shins

Thin layers of skin cover your ankle bones and shin bones; you can experience extreme pain in this area after a tattoo is inked.

Behind The Knees

The knee area has loose stretchy skin with many nerve endings. Each time the needles hit these nerve endings, it may cause some numbness. Often the full intensity of the pain is only experienced afterward.

Feet And Toes

The skin on the toes and feet is extremely thin. Although it is popular to receive a tattoo, the after-effects of the needle touching the nerves can cause painful spasms.

The above parts of the leg are where you will experience the most amount of pain; if you are experiencing extreme pain in any other area, there is a possibility that the tattoo could be infected.

Movement Of The Leg

The leg is one part of the body that is prone to quite a lot of movement. The calf muscle pulls up the heel to allow forward movement during running, jumping, or walking. Imagine having a tattoo in the same area trying to heal; further movement will aggravate the pain.

You may also experience pain when you shift from lying down or sitting to standing. It is almost as if there is a feeling of blood rushing to your lower leg and the sense of your skin starting to feel super tight.

I noticed that I would experience more pain at night; perhaps it was because I was placing more pressure on my legs during the day, considering that I would spend most of my days standing, and at night when I rested my legs, the muscles would contract and become tight.

 Poor Leg Circulation

Lower leg tattoos tend to cause swelling and pain. Gravity makes the swelling travel to the ankle. Swelling is due to poor blood circulation in your leg. As you get older, your blood circulation tends to get worst. Older skin also tends to get bruised more easily, which could be the reason for the pain after the tattoo.

If you have an ankle tattoo, avoid wearing restrictive food wear or socks can also cause the ankle to swell. Also, ensure that you are not wearing tight clothing where the fabric will rub against the tattoo, which can cause a rash.

Poor After Care Routine

If the tattoo is not cleaned and moisturized properly, it can also cause infection and pain. If there is a bandage around the tattoo, it could be too tight. It is advisable to loosen the bandage and air the tattoo to heal properly. Keeping the tattoo bandaged for too long can also cause pain.

Weight Of The Person

Heavier people tend to have looser skin; hence you will experience more pain if you fit this profile. People with less or no body fat might also experience extreme pain.

Reaction To Trauma

Having a tattoo is almost like undergoing an operation but without any anesthetic. Perhaps the pain is the body’s way of reacting to the trauma caused by those needles penetrating those legs as it is getting inked.


Being inked for the first time can also be the reason for experiencing more pain afterward, people that have had previous tattoos tend to have a higher pain threshold.

Tattoo Could Be Infected

If the pain tends to intensify, you may be one of those people who has experienced an allergic reaction to the ink, the tattoo has become infected, or in extreme cases, a blood-borne disease. You should seek immediate medical attention.

Identify The Type Of Pain That You Experiencing

Burning Pain

If you experience something hot pressed against your skin in the tattoo area, the chances are the tattoo is still raw and the area still sensitive. Apply ointment and drink plenty of water and anti-inflammatories for the pain.


Although this pain is not as intense, you may experience numbness to the tattoo area. Numbness is natural as the tattoo heals. You may also feel that at a certain time, the pain intensifies. Try to keep your leg elevated.

Scratching Pain

Scratching pain is a very common pain, and as the tattoo starts to dry out, you will find that the skin around the tattoo also tends to dry out, and you will have the overwhelming urge to want to scratch. Scratching can only intensify the pain and cause scarring and redness. Apply an ointment and bandage loosely to avoid the temptation of stretching.

Sharp Or Stingy Pain  

Sharp or stingy pain is one of the worst pains mentioned above. It is common after the tattoo but tends to ease off as it heals. Invest in some good pain medication and anti-inflammatories. Seek medical attention if the pain persists.

When Will A Leg Tattoo Heal?

Leg Tattoos can take anything from two weeks to months to heal. It entirely depends on how much pressure is placed on the leg. If you stand for longer, it will affect the healing process. Following a   proper aftercare routine will also help speed up the healing process.


If you, like me, have had a leg tattoo, the chances are you are experiencing some excruciating pain. This pain has more to do with the anatomy of the leg than your pain threshold. Pain will result from multiple needles penetrating an area with more muscle than fat, more bone, and more nerve endings.

Although tattoos may last a lifetime, the pain experienced will eventually disappear. In the meantime, keep those legs elevated.


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