TATTOOING: A pain in the neck



Tattooing can sometimes be a pain in the neck. In addition to dealing with clients, social media, drawing and all the other things we’re expected to accomplish; we’re required to tattoo for long hours, which can take a toll on our bodies. One of those areas often affected from prolong tattooing is our necks. I’ve met many tattooists that complain about neck pain. It doesn’t surprise me I often hear relief is found in the form of pain killers and alcohol, because this is something a lot of tattooers do anyway. Sure, pain killers and alcohol have its charms, but there’s other ways to make your neck feel better after being hunched over tattooing for extended periods which may yield better results without the hangover. Not only have I compiled a list of information that can help a sore neck , I actually do some of this stuff myself and I wouldn’t take the time to write about it if it didn’t work.

First of all, if you would like to sound like a smarty pants; the medical community calls the neck your “cervical vertebrate”, because it’s part of your vertebrate. The cervical vertebrate consists of seven bones. This is helpful information if you ever end up on Jeopardy one day. The important thing to remember about your neck is that because it’s part of the vertebrate, spinal fluid travels up and down through it and if it gets compressed, can cause problems that could ruin a tattoo career. One of the problems that occur is called Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy. This condition can be painful, but also can cause weakness and numbness in the arms and hands. It often occurs in people over fifty from regular wear and tear, but in those who have extra stress put on their cervical vertebrates, it can occur long before that.  Also, compromising the amount of spinal fluid traveling to the brain can impair brain function. Basically, that kink in your neck has the potential to affect your cognitive abilities, or make you less sharp when it comes to quick thinking. Most people don’t even consider how well their brain is functioning when they’re in pain. Speaking of pain, having a kinked up neck can also cause some pretty wicked headaches. I found some helpful stuff that can help alleviate a cramped neck and can also help get rid of headaches caused by this.

As a lifelong athlete, I cannot stress enough the importance of stretching. Being a finely tuned ink slinging machine isn’t easy. It’s more than just preparing yourself artistically and mentally for the process. Being physically prepared to tattoo is just as important. Like anything you put your body through for extended periods, stretching is essential for keeping you feeling good before and after tattooing. If you’re doing something that requires long sessions, it might even help to take a quick break to stretch a couple of times. I’m a big proponent of yoga mostly because the stretches make me feel so good. Contrary to popular belief, yoga ins’t all about twisting yourself into a pretzel. Many of the stretches commonly used today are actually ancient yoga stretches, revised, renamed and repackaged for various designated activities. All of the basic neck stretches we use today were birthed from yoga. There are several instructional videos out there which teach you how to do neck stretching properly. One that I recommend features a woman doctor named Dr. Jo. Try and bear with the incredibly crappy intro. music which may very well be a sound bite from a nineties soft core porn movie, because it’s brief and the video is worth a look.  Here’s the link: The next video is a very relaxing yoga style video. Some of the stretches are the same and there’s a little bit of massage sprinkled in it. The woman in the video has a soothing voice, but the music playing in the background makes me want to duct tape my ears shut. The link for this one is here:  If you have no time, or patience for a you tube video on neck stretches, I’ve included a chart below for quick reference.

Stretching isn’t the only way to help relieve neck pain. Acupressure and acupuncture are great ways to help solve all kinds of ailments. I found a video on you tube that’s short and to the point about self acupressure. My first impression of the video was an impulsive need to punch the guy talking in the video in his face. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, just watch the video, you’ll understand. I almost feel bad about this, because its actually a pretty helpful video. I’m no stranger to acupressure. It often works pretty well for me. Here is the link to the very helpful, but slightly annoying video: In addition to this video, I found an interesting one that focuses on acupressure points using a golf ball. Same helpful information about pressure points, a little more informative and a little more creative:

Heating sore muscles is also a great way to sooth them. A heating pad is great, but I’m too cheap to go out and actually buy one, so I make ghetto heating pads of my own. All you need is a tube sock, a bag of rice and a microwave. Pour the rice into the tube sock, tie off the end and put it in the microwave for about 60 seconds. Some people prefer less, some more. It all depends on the size of your sock and how much you put in it. I recommend making sure you use a clean tube sock, otherwise you’re gonna stink your kitchen up with the putrid smell of feet while it heats up and you’re neck will stink too. It’s going to be hard to get a date like that, so just make sure you’re using a clean sock. If you want to get a little massage out of the whole heating pad gig, then you can also fill the tube sock with dried beans. The beans are bigger and offer a rougher texture, so when you roll it around your neck with your hand; you get a pretty decent, heated self massage. Regarding self massage, here’s a link to a pretty good neck massage video: This is a “do it while you view it”, video. After having researched you tube videos for the last couple of weeks, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that most of the music is going to suck in every single one of these videos. This one is no different. I hope you like pianos.

If you’re out on the road and you happened to leave your trusty heat sock at home,no worries. You can fill your ice bucket in your hotel room with hot water and submerge a wash cloth in it. Place it next to your bed, wring out the cloth real well, lie on the bed flat on your stomach so that you’re face down on the bed. Do not use a pillow. Position your head downward so that your chin touches the top of your chest and feel a stretch in your neck, which will also stretch the top of your shoulders. Apply the hot washcloth to your neck and release your arms to your sides. It’s instant relief. The ice bucket next to you will keep you from having to run to the sink every five minutes while you relieve your neck. When the washcloth cools down, re submerge and repeat. Sometimes, for extra added relief, I’ll massage some Tiger Balm into my neck after doing heat therapy. It’s an ancient Chinese, herbal, relief balm. Between tattooing and roller derby, I have many days where Tiger Balm is my best friend. Here’s more information on the stuff:

I hope this blog has been helpful and offers some relief for those who need it. If there’s a topic you would like to see here at Under The Gloves, please drop me an email at:

Happy New Year!

Cee Jay



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