Tattoos act as a means of expression for many people, with over 40% of the UK having at least one tattoo. I have three myself, all of which have a special meaning to me. However, having a deeper meaning is not always the reason behind getting a tattoo. Everyone knows that getting a tattoo can be a painful experience, the design is made by puncturing the skin with needles and injecting ink, dyes, and pigments into the deep layer of the skin. However, for someone with chronic pain, a tattoo may be an extremely painful experience that could trigger a crash.
A 'crash' is the termed used by the chronic community to describe a period of extenuated symptoms. These periods of time can include a more severe pain experience, needing to rest and sleep more, in addition to complex symptoms that impact concentration and communication abilities.
People with Fibromyalgia, one of the chronic illnesses I struggle with, often experience heightened pain as their brains and nerves misinterpret pain signals. This is called hyperalergesia and is a characteristic symptom of chronic pain conditions. This obviously poses an issue for a chronically ill individual wishing to get a tattoo. A further issue related to chronic pain conditions is the possibility of the vibration and noise of a tattoo machine setting nerves on edge. This can lead to a crash as it puts the body into a state of anxiety and panic. For anyone who experiences anxiety attacks and has problems with sensory overload because of fibromyalgia, tattooing may trigger those symptoms as well.
However, not all people in the chronic community have a negative experience, some even say that it distracts from their typical pains, and has a sothing effect. This is demonstrated in the extensive examples of chronic themed tattoos. Many people have had awareness tattoos representing their invisible illnesses.
So, what should you consider if you have a chronic condition and wish to get a tattoo?
Stay hydrated, before and after
Don't drink alcohol for two days ahead of time
Take your prescribed medication on time
Make sure you have eaten and your blood sugar is stable
Be well rested
Don't get a tattoo on a bad day
Don't take aspirin or consume a lot of caffeine before going in (it can thin the blood)
Communicate about how you're feeling throughout the process, and before it becomes a problem
Make your tattooist aware of your medical history, they are in the best position to advise you
Plan to get extra rest afterwards
My personal experience getting a tattoo while chronically ill includes an elongated healing time. It took about three months for my tattoos to fully heal, with the skin around the area being tender for a while. I had to have sugar rich food and drink to help my body's response, this meant i had to tweak my diet a little a week or so before and after getting the tattoo. I made sure to take extra time to rest, sleeping after the event and keeping physical and mentally tasking events to a minimum. I think this helped me understand how big a commitment a tattoo is. For me, the pain and resulting crash from the tattoo made me take my time when choosing what I wanted and where I wanted it.
If you have any questions or queries about what it is like to get a tattoo with a chronic condition, please leave a comment below!