Health Issues With Tattooing (Mike Rubendall)

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

Mike Rubendall: Before I was physically active and aware of what being in good health was, I had major back and neck pain. It seems to be a common problem amongst tattooers due to poor posture and long hours of tattooing throughout the years.

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

I would regularly see a massage and physical therapist. They have been helpful for me for the most part. However, I feel maintaining a healthy diet and exercise is a more effective method to avoid any type of chronic pain caused by tattooing… 

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

I have modified my workstation in a way where it is most efficient for me. Everything is very easily accessible. I rarely tattoo in compromising positions (other than conventions of course). I use tables and armrests as mush as possible. I even utilize an armrest for me to rest on, not always the client. In addition, I have eliminated the use of a foot pedal and completely rely on constant current to my machines. This has done wonders for my lower back. It was one of those discoveries that I wish I had found sooner.

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

I follow a workout regime anywhere from 4-6 days a week. It usually consists of boxing, running, crossfit and recently, yoga. I’ve completely changed my lifestyle some years back and it has become a way of life for me. It is much more than physical conditioning. I believe exercise is the key to my mental strength and makes it easy to maintain positive mental attitude as a result. Over time I have seen a direct correlation between exercising and my ability to deal with the pitfalls life has to offer.

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

Yes. I have changed my eating habits drastically. I follow a gluten and dairy free diet. I will generally eat about seven meals per day, roughly every three hours and not particularly large portions. I have adjusted my schedule to accommodate my eating habits. My day consists of three 2-3 hour blocks of time for tattoo appointments. These few adjustments have seemed to maximize my energy level. I’m able to tattoo longer and maintain a higher level of focus and patience.

Do you snack between clients or during longer session? If you do, what do you eat/drink?

I think small snack or lunch breaks are important throughout the day. This allows your body to refuel and recover in a sense. I feel that it is extremely important to stay hydrated as well. I often drink coffee (3 cups max) during my mornings/afternoons and understand it’s not particularly healthy, but I really enjoy it. I tend to stick predominantly to drinking water throughout the day. A general rule of thumb that I use in regards to “how much water should I drink,” is half the number of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, I’m 150 pounds and I generally try to drink about 75 oz of water per day. I believe it is important to pay attention to what’s going into your body, to be in touch with how you feel and listen to your body. Make the changes necessary to achieve the quality of life you desire.

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

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz.

Mike Rubendall is featured in TAM issue #28

Digital Download for TAM #28

Mike Rubendall can be found at Kings Ave. Tattoo in New York City.

Related TAM Blog Articles:

Health Issues With Tattooing (Nick Baxter)

Health Issues With Tattooing (Jesse Smith)

Health Issues With Tattooing (Kari Barba)

Health Issues With Tattooing (Mike Giant)

Health Issues With Tattooing (Seth Ciferri)

Markus Lenhard: Workplace Ergonomics and Long Term Health Improvement Techniques for Tattoo Artists

Health Issues With Tattooing (Marcus Kuhn)

Similar Articles

5 thoughts on “Health Issues With Tattooing (Mike Rubendall)

  1. Actually damage done by coils to wrist hands etc IS reversible. My wife is a therapist and we are working with several rotary designers currently.
    The one thing people should be aware of weather running coil or rotary machines is HAVD, which stands for Hand and ARM Vascular Disease. Very, VERY common in our industry and often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel etc.
    For more info please feel free to contact me at
    or attend one of my seminars.
    Thank you,
    Russ Kinslow
    Drastic Pleasures Tattoo Studio

Comments are closed.