Ohio State University did a study and found what we all knew already to be true. Tattooing is hard on the body. And we don’t mean for the client. The study was done by Dana Keester and Carolyn Sommerich who came to the following overall conclusions:
- Tattoo artists are at risk for developing work-related musculoskeletal discomfort.
- Discomfort prevalence exceeded 50% in the neck, back, and upper extremities.
- Tattoo artists appear to work in awkward postures most of the time while tattooing.
- During work Trapezius m. activity typically exceeds recommended static limits.
- Intervention concepts are suggested to address some work environment deficiencies.
One of the main problems is that there are no universal guidelines addressing the profession of tattooing. Here were their findings:
The 10 tattoo artists who participated in a recent study from Ohio State University exceeded the maximum muscle exertions recommended to avoid injury, especially in the muscles of their upper back and neck.
The researchers spent time hanging out in tattoo parlors with our EMG equipment, cameras and a tripod, observing artists who agreed to work while wearing electrodes that precisely measured their muscle activity.
Via the electrodes, data was gathered for 15 seconds every 3 minutes for the entirety of the tattoo session. In addition, the researchers used a standardized observational assessment tool to assess each artist’s posture every 5 minutes and took a picture to document each observation.
Keester notes in the release that some reasons for the tattoo artists’ discomfort were obvious right away—they perch on low stools, lean forward, and crane their neck to keep their eyes close to the tattoo that they’re creating.
All 10 tattoo artists in the study exceeded the recommended exertion limits in at least one muscle group—some by as much as 25%, putting them at risk for injury, Keester adds. Most notable was the strain on their trapezius muscles—the upper back muscles that connect the shoulder blades to either side of the neck, a common site for neck/shoulder pain.
Tattoo artists experience similar ailments as dentists and dental hygienists, but what sets them apart from those in the dental industry is the lack of a national organization that sets ergonomic guidelines for avoiding injury, per the release.
The researchers suggest that ways tattoo artists can help avoid injury can include experimenting with different types of chairs for themselves, supporting their back and arms, changing positions while they work, taking more frequent breaks, using a mounted magnifying glass to see their work instead of leaning in, and asking the client to move into a position that is comfortable for both the client and the tattoo artist.
“If the client can stand or maybe lean on something while the artist sits comfortably, that may be a good option,” Sommerich adds. “Switch it up once in a while.”
A lot of times, younger artists don’t fully comprehend the damage they are doing to their bodies. Talk to your elders and mentors for guidelines to follow to avoid permanent injury. And as always, contact firstname.lastname@example.org assistance.