Health Issues With Tattooing (Mike Giant)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik: Did you encounter any type of physical problems when you were tattooing?

Mike Giant: Yes, my neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers would always hurt after a long day of tattooing. It took its toll over the years. These days I can only tattoo once or twice a week because of the pain… 

Were the machines too heavy or the grip not good enough?

Mike I always thought the machines were too heavy. And I got used to small grips, which did turn out to be a bad idea. Now I use fat grip disposables.

Did you see a doctor, chiropractor, masseuse therapist, acupunctures or anything similar when you were tattooing or later on when you stopped tattooing, because possible problems that were caused by you tattooing?

I’ve seen an acupuncturist a few times for chronic shoulder pain from tattooing and it helped a lot. I also see massage therapists about once a month to help with my back and neck pain. I also do yoga when I feel like I really need it.

Did you modify your workstation because you had encountered physical problems or because you wished to avoid them?

Because I’m tall, I’ve always had difficulty with the height of tables and chairs. Whenever possible, I build custom work-tables to accommodate my height. I also try to keep all my tattoo equipment to my right so I don’t have to reach across myself to get ink or paper towels. My back goes pretty fast when I have to twist around to get ink every time.

Lighting is always a big issue with me too. I hate shadows on the skin I’m trying to tattoo. It drives me nuts. Whenever possible I try to work under indirect natural light. It’s just the best. Otherwise, I like one lamp on my left so my tattooing hand doesn’t cast a shadow on the work.

Can you tell more about the custom work-tables?

Mike: Well, it’s really just about the height of the table. Normally, tables are 30″ from the ground. For me, that’s way too low. I end up having to bend over too much to get what I need. So when I can, I get custom furniture made to fit. It’s really worth it, especially for a workspace that gets used every day for hours and hours.

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

I got into bicycles around the same time I started tattooing. I got quite a few bikes from messengers that wanted tattoos in the early days. It’s a habit that’s stuck with me. I try to get in 20-30 miles every day on my bikes. It’s about the only exercise I get other than sex.

Did you have to change your eating habits in any way because of tattooing?

Not in particular. Sometimes I had to eat fast between appointments, but that’s about it.

What about spiritual/psychological health? How did you maintain that?

I’ve been engaging various Buddhist meditation practices since 1993. Without question it has been the most beneficial pursuit of my life thus far. It gave me the tools to understand how my mind works and helped me find relief from the base suffering I feel in day-to-day life.

I attempt to practice mindfulness as a lifestyle and maintain a sitting practice off and on as the need arises. I also teach meditation and dharma off and on here in San Francisco, which really helps keep me immersed in the dharma.

Mike can be found here:

Related TAM Blog Articles:

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)

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