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Thread: Tattoo's

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2001


    I have a friend who is buying me a tattoo for my birthday at the end of the month. I was just wondering if I was gonna have any problems with it healing. I'm a t-4 & T-5 para. I want to have it put on my big toe or on the back of my neck. what do you think Dr. Wise or any of you that have had it done post injury.

  2. #2
    I have no experience with tattoos, but as someone with an injury level above T6 you must be mindful of autonomic dysreflexia which could conceivably be triggered by getting tattooed at any location below the level of your injury.

    I once had an ingrown nail on my big toe and even though I have ZERO sensation in my legs and feet I advised (and insisted) that the podiatrist who treated me anesthetize the area before he performed the minor surgery of excising part of my toe nail.

  3. #3


    I think all us gimps in chairs should get a Superman or Superwoman tattoo's, because anyone going through all of this stuff has to be stronger then the averge person! It will also show our support for the real Superman, "Christoper Reeves!"

  4. #4


    dawn marie - The concerns about tattoos are related to the potential for infections and the risk for AD. If you are having a tatoo it is most important that this be performed by someone who is a well-qualified tatooist whose techniques will not put you at risk for an infection at the site.

    I would discourage your having it put on a toe due to the risk of both infection and AD. An infection in the toe is extremely difficult to manage for all persons as the circulation to this body part is, at best, poor. Diabetics often end up with an amputation of a toe when an infection has occurred from something as simple as an ingrown toenail. A former quad patient of mine scraped her toe in a hot tub, did not know it until the next morning when her toe looked like a balloon. It took months and almost an amputation for this to get cleared up. The toe now is very much at risk for further irritation from very minor causes. Therefore, with the above cautions, I would think a tattoo on your neck or somewhere above your injury level as the location of choice. CRF

  5. #5
    How can you even think of getting your toe done? I can't even paint my toe nails because my feet go into spasms very easily when my toes are touched. Talk about hyper-sensitive! My husband and I howled with laughter after my in-law's first visit to me in the rehab hospital. Mom thought I would feel better if I had a pedicure. All I could think of was how much we could sell the opposing wall for after I artistically kicked red nail polish all over it ala Jackson Pollock style.

    Does anyone else have this problem and if so have you found a way around it?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Tara's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    BC, Canada
    Dawn Marie
    I am a T4 and got a tattoo on my hip last summer. I was paranoid that I would spasm while it was being done but it wasnt that bad. I do have sensation and it just felt like someone constantly pinching you over and over. It didnt cause any AD at all for me.

  7. #7
    I have a good friend whom I consider the world's expert on tattoos. Let me consult her. Wise.

  8. #8
    Here is the response from Michele Delio regarding tattoos. Regarding her credentials, in her words... "And if they want professional attribution (so they know I'm not just a gabby gal with a teeny butterfly tattoo) I wrote a book on tattoos (the art of tattoo) and edited Tattoo Revue and Skin Art magazines for over a decade." She is one of my favorite people.

    Hi Wise,

    I know a lot about tattoos and very little about spinal injuries, so some of my advice may be off. feel free to add your own editorial comments to the below, which is probably much more info than you need or wanted :-)

    The only issues that would totally preclude someone from getting a tattoo are pregnancy and allergies to the ink. Complicating conditions that would make it difficult to heal the tattoo -- such as diabetes and AIDS -- require more effort during the healing process.

    First dawn marie needs to tell the tattoo artist about any issues (spasm, I would guess) that might not be part of the artists everyday experience. It's very important to be still when you're getting a tattoo, (imagine coloring in a complicated picture on a piece of paper that suddenly moves). But sometimes moving happens so what most of us do is warn the artist -- "sneeze coming on" so they know to stop for a moment. I don't know if oncoming muscle spasms can be sensed prior to happening, but let the artist know about the possibility and sort something out. Worse comes to worse if a spasm happens any coloring "outside of the lines" can be fixed.

    I've gotten the "shakes" a couple of times while getting tattooed --some days you're just not up to it. I don't know what would provoke spasms in a person with a spinal injury, but as I said above if you spasm -- no biggie, life and the tattoo goes on. Tattooists are VERY used to dealing with physical reactions to the tattoo process. Usually people get a tremble when they are tired, not feeling great, or hungry. I make a point of not getting a tattoo when I am worn out or feeling crappy. concentrating on your breathing helps settle things down. And EAT beforehand, even if you have butterflies in your stomach.

    Tattoos on the lower body always heal more slowly than tattoos above the waist, due mostly to blood circulation. My leg tattoos took a week longer to heal than the ones on my arms, collarbone and back because I'm usually sitting and the blood pools in my legs, slowing the healing process for reasons I'm sure you can explain better than I can. I wouldn't advise the toe tattoo for that reason, as I assume with a spinal injury blood flow is even more of an issue. Toes are pretty sensitive too, I don't know if dawn marie has sensation in her toes, but I expect the vibration of the tattoo machine there might bring on a spasm. That's just a hunch.

    Infection should not be an issue is the tattoos works clean -- and that involves a lot of issues. A good description of what to look for is here If she needs a recommendation for a good, clean tattooist who will be easy to work with, let me know where she's located and I'll check the locals out with some tattoo artists I trust.

    Healing the tattoo properly leaves you with a good-looking tattoo. You want to keep the ink in your skin, obviously, and it takes a week or two for it to settle in properly. With small pieces it's much less of an issue, and infections afterwards (as in, not provoked by a dirty tattoo proceedure) are virtually never an issue unless you are mucking around in mud of something. essentially it's a surface scrape, not a deep wound. Your major concern in healing is to end up with a good-looking tattoo by keeping the ink in your skin until new skin can cover it. The faster you can heal it the less ink you lose. Dawn marie should make sure to have a nice, light healthy meal an hour or so before she gets tattooed. I up the protein a couple of days pre-tattoo, and also take plenty of B and E vitamins. All this helps in healing. Basic cleanliness -- a light covering of an antibiotic ointment for the first day or two (some people prefer to leave the new tattoo dry, follow the artist's insructions), and a wash with plain (no perfume, no deodorant) soap is enough. For a week afterwards a scab forms over the tattoo, the scab needs to be kept dry and essentially left alone --we want it to stay on till the new skin underneath forms. So it's better not to get a piece where there will be constant pressure from sitting or clothing which will inhibit or interfere with that lovely scab. This could be more of an issue for someone who has impaired mobility? If so, give some real thought to the best placement for the tattoo.

    many tattooists will not do a first tattoo on the neck -- hands, face and neck tattoos are often reserved for people who are already heavily tattooed. This is only because we question whether someone who doesn't have tattoos understands the social impact of being tattooed in a very visible spot. If dawn marie is considering a tattoo on the back of her neck that shouldn't be an issue since it's less visible. Side of the neck will (should) require some convincing of the tattoo artist.

    I don't know if Dawn marie is getting tattooed somewhere that she has no sensation -- if not, she'll feel a bit of a burn as the ink goes in, and occasionally a bit of an ouch -- sort of like getting scratched by a cat. The first ten minutes are the most interesting :-) after that the area goes numb and you don't feel much outside of a sensation of warmth.

  9. #9
    Senior Member X-racer...'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Eugene, OR
    Dr. Y do you have a tattoo ????


  10. #10
    Who, me?

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