Can I Get a Tattoo when I Have Fibromyalgia?

Be Prepared for Lots of Pain!

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Question: I really want a tattoo, but I have fibromyalgia. That makes me really afraid of how painful it might be. I've never had one before. Is this a really stupid idea or can I have the tattoo I really want in spite of my condition?

Answer: The first thing you should know is that fibromyalgia will make the tattooing process more painful. Our bodies don't respond to pain signals like other people's do; our brains and our nerves overreact and amplify the signals so that we feel more pain than we should.

I got a tattoo years ago, before I had fibromyalgia. While it did hurt, the pain wasn't unbearable. I compare it to having a sharp fingernail or the tines of a fork drag slowly across your skin, hard enough to leave marks.

Beyond the pain, though, is the question of aggravation. My biggest issue was that the pain combined with the vibration and the noise set all of my nerves on edge. I get anxiety attacks and have problems with sensory overload because of my fibromyalgia, and those are the symptoms I'd really worry about if I were to get another tattoo.

You may want to talk to a reputable tattoo artist about your concerns. I don't know if they'd let you see what the needle feels like without any ink, but I'd think that would give you the best idea. Also talk to him or her about the placement -- where you get it has a lot to do with how much it hurts. Keep in mind that a small, simple design will be a lot easier on you than a large and/or complex one.

You know your symptoms best, so in the end you're the only one who can decide whether a tattoo is worth the possible consequences. If you do decide to go through with it, you might need to schedule shorter sessions than other people and make sure you've got plenty of pain medication. Be sure you have a ride home, too, in case you have a symptom flare and it's not safe for you to drive.

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