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Health Issues With Tattooing (Jesse Smith)

Health Issues With Tattooing (Jesse Smith)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik:  What type of physical problems have you encountered due to tattooing?

Jesse Smith: I’ve definitely had a few issues with carpal tunnel here and there. As well as a few nerve issues in my shoulders and arms. I’ve also noticed that my hearing has suffered because of the constant buzzing over the years… 

Have you had to change the machines to lighter ones, etc?

I would like to switch to rotaries at some point, but I haven’t got to a financial position that would allow me to rationalize spending an extra grand on something that I’ve already got.

(UPDATE: I now use rotary machines exclusively. Since I’ve changed to rotaries I haven’t had any issues with my wrist and I’ve noticed how loud coil machines are. After tattooing with coil machines for almost 10 years it’s easy to forget how loud they actually are. I’m sure the damage that coil machines have done thus far is irreversible, however I find comfort in the fact that they won’t get worse, at least from a tattoo machine…)

Have you had to see a doctor, chiropractor, masseuse therapist, acupuncture or anything similar because problems or because you want to avoid them?

It hasn’t quite gotten to a level where I’ve had to see a professional about any of them although I do try to get a massage every once in a while to loosen everything up.

Have you modified your work station because you have encountered physical problems or wish to avoid them?

Whenever I start experiencing pain from tattooing I try to modify my overall work schedule so that I’m not over doing it. I try to take a break every hour so that I can stretch a bit. I’ve definitely noticed an improvement since I’ve modified my schedule. Traveling is when I notice the pain the most. I tend to over-book myself and work a lot differently because of time restraints. So I try to space things out a little better when I travel nowadays.

Do you follow a work out regime to keep in shape and healthy?

I play a lot of soccer and volleyball these days. Anything to get me out of the chair. Between tattooing, drawing, painting and computer stuff I feel like I’m always sitting on my ass.

Core strength is important. Do you do, or have you done exercises that strengthen your core muscles?

I used to dive in college, so I did a substantial amount of core training for that, but since I’ve been out of school I’ve definitely fell off in that department.

Have you had to change your eating habits in any way because of tattooing?

My eating schedule is a lot different from most, simply because of the hours that we (tattoo artists) tend to work. I usually eat breakfast around lunch time, lunch around dinner time and dinner around bedtime. As far as diet, I try to eat healthy, but due to the hours that I work it is sometimes difficult.

I hear you are a total health freak! Drinking milk extracted from this-and-that nut, counting your electrolytes and shit!

I’m definitely not as healthy as I used to be. I’ve been traveling a lot lately and it’s rather difficult to keep up any diet while I’m on the road. I do, however, try to spend a bit extra on groceries in order to get higher quality food.

What about spiritual/psychological health? How do you maintain that?

I’ve never been much of a spiritual person. I dip in and out of studying certain religions and spiritual movements, but none of them ever seem to stick. As far as psychological health is concerned, I try to keep my stress level to a minimum and get lots of exercise. I’ve noticed that the quality of my work suffers when I am too stressed.

Jesse Smith can be found at Loose Screw Tattoo in Richmond, VA.

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