Dating back to ancient Egypt, tattoos have been a part of human life for centuries. The increased popularity of this type of “skin art” means there’s a lot of work available for skilled tattoo artists. One of the potential pitfalls of tattooing for a living is one that’s not on a lot of peoples’ radar: back pain. There’s new research that suggests tattoo artists tend to experience various forms of back pain more often than people who work in occupations that are less demanding on the spine. The Los Angeles back surgeons at The Spine Institute discuss some of the ways being a tattoo artist affects back pain.
Postures Required for Tattooing Aren’t “Back Friendly”
Through the use of a special machine that measured muscle movement while tattoo artists worked, researchers at Ohio State University were able to determine tattoo artists experience more instances of back and neck pain than the average person. Researchers also took pictures of the subjects’ spines periodically to assess posture in relation to back pain.
Results of the study suggest tattoo artists are 25 percent more likely to have back pain than the average worker, the reason being the posture required for the job. While performing their work, tattoo artists assume many positions that aren’t very spine-friendly, including:
- Sitting on stools for hours at a time
- Hunching forward to reach various areas of the body
- Stretching arms outward or upward in a way that throws off spinal alignment
It’s Not Always Easy to Take a Break
Tattoo artists can’t always stop in the middle of what they’re doing to take a break, especially with paying customers waiting to have their personal masterpieces created. Hours spent in the same position places extra pressure on muscles that support the spine as well as joints and discs within the backbone itself.
This added stress on the spine may increase degenerative wear over time and contribute to chronic pain from disc and joint issues like disc herniation and spondylosis. Tattoo artists may be able to minimize their back pain by:
- Choosing comfortable, supportive chairs (preferably ones that are adjustable)
- Changing positions periodically during tattooing sessions
- Doing stretching routines for both the back and neck before and after sessions
- Finding times throughout the day to go for a walk or get other forms of exercise that increase blood flow and circulation to the spine
Most instances of back pain are due to some degree of muscle strain or stress. Even so, persistent back pain can quickly become expensive when costs of doctor visits, tests, and medications are factored into the equation. Since many tattoo artists run their own shops, they don’t often have access to workers’ compensation, which means serious spine pain could seriously cut into profits. The good news is that milder forms of back pain often respond well to home remedies and conservative treatments like the off-and-on use of heating pads and ice packs.
More severe forms of back pain, whether they’re due to a profession or another cause, may require minimally invasive back surgery. Los Angeles residents should contact The Spine Institute Center if they are unable to find effective relief for their back pain. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons can diagnose the source of your pain and determine the most effective solution. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.