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Sacrificing for their art

The prominence of tattoos has created a society where people without the popular ink stand out more than those who adorn themselves with body art. Enthusiasts proudly “display” their self-expressions. However, with that pride and pleasure comes pain.

They are not the only one experiencing discomfort. Tattoo artists also experience a sting that does not come from a needle.

The work of tattoo artists involves sitting on low stools while they crane their neck to get up close to their work. With some renderings lasting up to eight hours at a time, back and neck muscles receive more stress than they should.

The Ohio State University released a study that showed the negative efforts of the tattoo trade. Using electrodes, researchers studied the muscle activity exerted by 10 tattoo artists in the central part of the state. Their findings revealed the following:

  • All artists exceeded recommended exertion limits in at least one muscle group.
  • Notable strain in a common site for neck/shoulder pain involves upper back muscles connected to shoulder blades to either side of the neck.
  • Some subjects were deemed at high risk of injury by exceeding limits by as much as 25 percent

Without the benefit of a specialized “tattoo chair,” they are unable to get the support they and their clients need. Instead, artists perform their own hacks of dental chairs or massage chairs to make the client comfortable. Their comfort seems to be another story.

Possible remedies suggested by researchers include:

  • Trying out different types of chairs that will best support their back and arms
  • Suggesting that the client move into a position comfortable for both
  • Using a mounted magnifying glass to see their progress
  • Changing positions while they work
  • Taking more frequent breaks

Customized seating only goes for far for tattoo artists are not technically employees. Many are independent contractors who rent space from shop owners. Workers’ compensation coverage is not an option if they suffer injuries.

Those who are employees and suffer repetitive injuries from their work may need an attorney to pursue a job-related injury claim.

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