Tattoo and Piercing Discomfort

ImageSo why do we worry about how much our tattoo, piercing or tattoo removal session will hurt, and how much will it actually hurt.

When you have a tattoo, tattoo removal or a piercing you activate the nociceptive pain receptors.  This is the most common form of pain and is called ‘nociceptive pain’ which is felt when you stub your toe, burn or cut yourself etc.   Our nerve fibres produce different chemical responses which influence how different sensations are interpreted; because we have different sensory nerve fibre we are therefore able to respond to different physical contact.  A touch of a person’s fingers for example is very different to that of a pin prick.  So when our bodies are being physically hurt, our nociceptive pain receptors are activated.

Once activated the nociceptive pain receptors send impulses through the nerve into your spinal cord where the signals make their way to the brain; telling us that we are in pain; and all this happens within a fraction of a second!

So what is pain?  Pain is defined by ‘The International Association for the Study of Pain’ as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” This however does not explain variations of pain experienced by people; coupled with the fact that everyone also feels pain differently.  Some people have a higher tolerance to pain whist others are affected by the most unassuming of things.  And what was painful last time isn’t as great this time and vice versa. 

As humans we love the drama of a good horror stories and the more real or gory they are, the better.  So when it comes to tattooing, piercing and even laser removal we have all heard the stories of people passing out and crying from the intense pain of one of these procedures.   But rest assured the people who have passed out, have mainly done so because their blood sugar has dropped from not eating or they have got too worked up and their own fear causes the faint.  Pain is rarely the cause.

Tattoo tears are not as unusual, and that can partly be because of the discomfort especially after a long sitting and your body stressed.  Sometimes tears can be due just to the emotion of getting your new tattoo; because perhaps it is a memorial or a declaration of love or other significant life event.

There are some options that help to reduce pain from numbing creams to pain free ink.  Speak to your tattooist about these options as pain free ink is available at Secret Ink.  Freeze sprays can reduce initial piercing discomfort but should be avoided for any oral piercings.  Ice or freeze spray can also help during Tattoo Removal sessions, especially at the end and can significantly reduce swelling or blistering.

  • Take time to get to know your tattooist, piercing or laser technician; and make sure you are given the opportunity to ask as many questions as you need to.
  • Ensure that you are fit and well before having a tattoo, piercing or a tattoo removal session.
  • A good night’s sleep is always a bonus, along with having had a good meal recently.
  • Consider the positioning of your tattoo or piercing; some areas are more p
  • Even if you aren’t a regular coffee-drinker, caffeine apparently can actually help speed pain relief. According to WebMD, caffeine can make pain relievers 40% more effective in treating headaches, and also speeds the body’s reaction to the medications. This is why many over the counter headache medications also contain caffeine.
  • Try to relax into the position you need to sit/lie for your Tattoo, Piercing or Tattoo Removal session. Either shut your eyes or focus on a point in the room.
  • Try to slow down your breathing.  Breathe deeply, using your chest. If you find your mind wandering or you are distracted, think and focus on a specific word.
  • Continue with about 2 to 3 minutes of controlled breathing.
  • Once you feel yourself slowing down, you can
    begin to use imagery/meditation techniques
  • Sometimes focusing on the discomfort itself, paying particular attention to the sensation. Is it burning? Is it throbbing? Is it tingling? Hot or Cold? Are there waves of sensations where the pain gets more intense and then less intense?
  • Ask for a break, especially during a longer tattoo session; but take care not to take too long as it can feel more painful when you start again and you own endorphins slow down.
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