Tattoos and Massage Therapy ~ A fibrous connection?

On my 19th birthday I got my first, and most likely only, tattoo.  I got a little ivy vine on my foot where I figured it would rarely get seen and could be easily covered.  My mom told me “Watch, someday you’ll have a job where your feet will be showing all day”.  A few years later I started practicing ashiatsu and now spend my days massaging people with my feet. Now, that little ivy vine looks up at me all day as a reminder that moms are always right.

This month Massage and Bodywork magazine had an article that discussed tattoos and massage.  It highlighted one therapist’s thoughts about the negative physical effects of the scar tissue caused by the normal tattoo process and how massage can release and break down these adhesions.   Before this article I never thought about the effects of tattooing below the skin.    Even though I rarely see tattoos in my practice, especially large ones, I will now check for adhesions and excess scar tissue around these personal forms of art.

What is your experience with tattoos and massage therapy?  Have you ever noticed problems caused by tattoos?  Do you think tattoos affect muscle tissue?  If you have a tattoo and are a massage therapist, how has it affected your job or career?

Our newly painted nails.


  1. Jenny says

    I am a massage therapist with tattoos and most of my clients have tattoos. I haven’t noticed anything. The issues I see are where the client has “branding” done, especially if they did it to themselves. Branding is where they are cut and/or burned designs in the skin. I have seen large scars and adhesions and keloid scars from these, especially on African American clients.

  2. jessica says

    I’m a massage therapist and most of my clients have at least 1 tattoo. I haven’t noticed any problems with adhesions or scarring…not really sure it’s an issue? But maybe if the tattoo artist was inexperienced or had a very heavy hand and went too deep…

  3. says

    I am seriously considering becoming a massage therapist, and I am also seriously considering getting a very small tattoo on my wrist soon. And what I am wondering is, if having a tattoo will affect my career, or my chances of getting a job in this industry.
    If anyone has some insight or advice about this, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. : )

    • says

      I seriously think about the placement of a tattoo if you think you may be entering the massage profession soon. I am not saying this is fair, but I do think visible tattoos could limit your job opportunities. It really just depends where you want to work. I have a friend who works as a massage therapist in a tattoo shop. Obviously her having tattoos is not a big deal at all.

    • says

      I have been a massage therapist for 4 years now, and I have several tattoos…the visible ones are on my wrists. I have not had any negative experiences, and I work independently and for a chain. I will be getting more tattoos.

      • sara says

        Thats AWESOME. When I told my clients I was getting this piece they where all really supportive. Always happy to hear of other tattooed therapists. :)

  4. sara says

    hello, I am also a massage therapist..I am a independent contractor, however I just got a forearm piece for my birthday..My question is How long should I be out of work while its healing? (opinions welcome) Right now I just have the outline..and will be seeing some clients in a week..however when I go back for my color and shading..Im thinking I might need more than a week..unless I just avoid using my left forearm at artist suggested long sleeves..and of course good hygiene..

    I would also like to add that I myself have not noticed any issues from tattoos on my clients..
    but I also havent seen any terrible work ether..(which would lead to excess scar tissue)

    • says

      Funny, I just saw a tattoo on Pinterest that I liked today. It was on a person’s foot, and I was thinking about how long I would have to give up massaging with my feet if I got it.

      My opinion – I would think you should avoid using your forearm until there are no signs of any broken/open/compromised skin. If you can work without using that forearm, then go for it.

      Thank you for sharing your experience too!

  5. alfredo says

    I’m going to enroll in school for massage therapy, but I have tattoo sleeves, tattoos on the top of my hands and one on my neck. I’m really hesitating if I should enroll because of the fear of discrimination or judgment from the other professionals.

    • says

      If massage is something you want to do, do it. Do not let other professionals keep you from a career you think you would enjoy. The massage field is pretty open-minded, and I would not worry about the opinion of others. You certainly would not be the first or last person with ink to be a massage professional. Best wishes!

      • alfredo says

        You are absolutely right! Thank you for the comment. I’m going to commit to this career choice and be the best MT ever!

    • bwfb says

      Hey there! I have full sleeves, my legs, back, and hands done, I’m only a few months from completing my course. My own therapist/personal trainer/nutritionist is heavily tattooed and very successful, and I know a few other body workers who are as well. Only one person in my class does not have a tattoo! So far I have not had any problems working with people, people love to talk ask about my work, and it can be a great way to get to know people. My goals are a little different than my classmates, as I am focusing on sports medicine and sports massage, especially for MMA fighters, triathletes, and power lifters. You’ll be fine and, as long as you have professional demeanor and appearance (clean cut, don’t smoke, well dressed, well spoken — I make sure I always look really good, am fashionable, etc., because I feel the need to “make up” for my work, but that’s me), you won’t have a problem. Chain spas, cruise ships, and very high end day spas will probably not be interested in bringing you on staff. Your own location in the world will make a big difference, so think about moving (or, failing that, maybe covering up your work with high quality stuff if it’s poorly done).

      I feel like people have more of a problem with body piercings than tattoos. Don’t let them hold you back!

      • alfredo cardona says

        @BWFB – Thanks for the comment :). I had no idea that you can enter into sports medicine and sports massage therapy after getting certified! This information definitely has made me determined to succeed and excel further in my quest to be a massage therapist!

  6. Mollie says

    I am a Massage Therapist and I have several tattoos (sleeve, chestpiece, legs). I work for a chiropractor and she thinks they are beautiful. No one ever judges me where I work or anywhere I have worked in the past. when I first got out of school I interviewed at this spa and was told I would need to cover them. I ended up not working there and the owner ended up getting shut down for having unlicensed therapists lol. I also have not noticed any negative affects on my muscle tissue from my tattoos.

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