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Tattoo Artists Prone To Neck, Upper Back Injuries

Update Date: Feb 20, 2017 09:00 AM EST

According to statistics, in the United States, the tattoo industry is worth $2.3 billion and the industry is expected to grow at least 13 percent this year. However, although tattooing is a multi-billion industry, most tattoo artists do not have access to worker's compensation and are prone to neck and upper back injuries.

The study, conducted by researchers from Ohio State University, measured the muscle exertions of tattoo artists while working. In particular, the researchers assessed the physical stresses that lead to neck and upper back injuries and body aches in tattoo artists.

The team of researchers observed ten Central Ohio tattoo artists. The tattoo artists were kind enough to wear electrodes while they were working in order to precisely measure muscle activity. Every three minutes, the electrodes measured muscle activity for fifteen seconds for one entire tattoo session. In addition, every five minutes, using a standardized observational assessment tool, the researchers took a picture of the tattoo artists to document position and posture.

The results of the study found that all the tattoo artists observed exceeded the maximums of recommendations implemented to avoid injuries particularly those affecting the neck and upper back. The physical stresses tattoo artists experience could be due to the long hours needed to complete a single tattoo.

Furthermore, perched on low stools, the discomfort brought upon their position and posture during working contributes to muscle strains leading to injuries. In fact, tattoo artists are 25 percent more prone to develop neck and upper back injuries. In a recent survey conducted during the Hell City Tattoo Festival, tattoo artists reported experiencing back pains, headache, neck pain, and eye pain.

The study recommends the development of an official tattoo chair that will ensure the comfort of both the client and tattoo artist. Moreover, the researchers recommend that tattoo artist take breaks and change their positions, especially during long sessions. The study is published in the journal Applied Ergonomics.

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