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The areas of the body where it hurts the most to get a tattoo

The feet, shins and shoulders are among the most sensitive areas of the body, although it all depends on the pain threshold of each person

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British science and biology teacher Natalie Wilsher has a tattoo of Albert Einstein on her arm. She has others on her feet, wrists, and ankles. Of all the tattoos he has done, the most painful were those on the instep and ankles .

“Pain is a way for the body to protect itself , and the nerves are responsible for detecting pain,” explains the teacher on the BBC podcast “Teach me a lesson”.

“It will be more painful to get a tattoo where there is less fat and more nerves,” he details in conversation with presenters Bella Mackie and Greg James. In addition to the feet and ankles, the shins, armpits, shoulders and rib cage add to the list of sensitive areas , says Wilsher, although it all depends on the sensitivity of each person.

“The nerves of the area that is being punctured when a tattoo is made send the pain signal to the brain,” explains the professor. However, one person’s reaction to the process of getting a tattoo may not necessarily be comparable to another’s.

“The pain tolerance threshold is completely different from one person to another,” he adds.

The first tattoo

The oldest known tattoo was found on Ötzi , also called the Iceman, a mummy that was discovered in a remote region of the Italian Alps in 1991, and remained frozen for more than 5,000 years.

“Ötzi’s tattoos were very small, very discreet . They were dots and dashes. Anthropologists think they were a form of acupuncture for medicinal purposes,” says Wilsher.

The teacher wonders how they healed the wounds caused by ripping the skin and assumes that it took months to heal. “It’s amazing that during that time, between the stone age and the metal age , they could do those tattoos without getting sick. It’s impressive that they had that knowledge,” he adds.

Over time, tattoos became a resource for everyone to tell their own story .

“Mythology says that Captain James Cook , in the late 18th century, met many people with different tattoos on his voyages across the Pacific. 90% of his crew got tattoos as a way to mark the route of their trip, ”explains the high school teacher. British naval soldiers inherited that tradition and began getting tattoos of their voyages, using urine and gunpowder, with a preparation that used to be called nautical ink, says Wilsher.

In the late 19th century, the tattoo machine was actually based on Thomas Eddison’s printer.

“It was created in 1875, and since then it hasn’t changed much. It still pricks the skin between 50 to 3,000 times a minute.”

The largest organ in the body

The skin is the largest organ of the body, it is equivalent to 50% of the body weight, and the most superficial layer is renewed every 28 days. Why doesn’t the ink fade when we shed that skin? Professor Wilsher reminds that the skin has three main layers: the epidermis on the surface; the dermis in the center, where blood vessels, sweat glands, follicles, and nerves are found; and the deepest part which is the hypodermis , the oily layer of the skin.

“The tattoo ink is injected into the dermis, where the nerves responsible for pain are located . Tattoos don’t fall off because the middle layer of the skin is protected by the epidermis,” she explains. Wilsher noted that when the ink is injected into the dermis, “the body says, ‘Wow, I have a wound.’ And he sends to that area macrophages, white blood cells that try to gobble up the ink and then send it into the bloodstream.”

However, there is too much ink for the macrophages to remove , so it gets stuck there. “That’s why we can see them through the epidermis,” he adds.


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