The short answer is yes, of course it hurts, you’re being stabbed thousands of times a minute with anywhere from 1 to 27 needles or having a needle stabbed straight through cartilage or skin. Is it un-bearable? No. Will you enjoy it? Probably not. Will you survive? Yes, you will.
Typically the first 15 minutes are the worst for a tattoo and then after about 4-6 hours it gets really bad again.
Piercings are a split second and a mild burning after, they can swell and ache or throb for a few days or even weeks after depending on many factors including your overall health, how well you follow aftercare instructions and several other factors like whether or not the piercing is getting bumped or played with or how clean the sheets/clothes are.
Here are some tips to deal with pain:
eat a good meal before your appointment
don't go out drinking/partying the days leading up to the appointment
exfoliate the area but please don't shave yourself
bring something to distract yourself like a book, iPad, movie or Nintendo
some say Motrim Platinum is great but always check with your doctor before using medication of any kind
wear comfy clothes
bring snacks (if you're allowed)
ask your artist for their advice as each artist says different things
please do NOT use numbing creams - they can cause more harm than good by inflaming the skin, enlarging pores and causing the skin to reject the ink which causes an artist to have to work the skin more to get the same saturation, if your artist is ok with using a numbing cream - please do so only if absolutely required and under express instruction and supervision of the artist doing the tattoo