As you may know I recently got a large lower leg tattoo. Unsurprisingly it swelled a touch the day after. Then it swelled a but more and spread into my foot. Needless to say, I was a little disconcerted, so I of course ‘googled’ it. This is where I hit a wall. There is loads of information on how to reduce swelling in your feet and ankles if you are pregnant. Or if you have a sprained ankle. But not a lot specific to tattoos to placate my nervous mind, until I found this forum.
So I thought I would post my findings, so I can share some knowledge on how to deal with swelling in the feet and ankles after a lower leg tattoo.
This might not happen to you at all. I have a small tattoo on my ankle from my 18th birthday. (Yes I got inked on my birthday and the studio sang to me too!) And from memory, it didn’t swell much at all and I do not remember being in any particular discomfort during the healing. However, it was relatively small. Especially compared to my newest piece, which covers 90% of my outer calf.
Anyway, should you find, like me, that you are a little swollen and in discomfort, you should find the following helpful.
- It is perfectly normal to experience swelling. It is the bodies defence against the trauma you’ve just put it through.
- Like a pregnant lady, you should keep off your feet as much as possible and elevate the foot/leg in question. The swelling is caused by water going where gravity tells it to go, so if your foot is nice and raised, the water shouldn’t settle there as much.
- An elevated foot whilst you sleep is also recommended, especially if you want to be able to get up the next morning with some feeling in your lower leg.
- Ice your foot, as you would if you sprained it. A good 15-20 minutes should help alleviate some of the pressure.
- Avoid tight fitting clothing around your new tattoo, as this will only exasperate the swelling and make it collect more. Tight socks are a definitely no go, especially if you are dealing with a new foot tattoo.
- Keep it clean. The lessens the chance of infection, which will make the swelling a whole lot worse.
- Take some over the counter anti-inflammatory’s. Something like ibuprofen should help, plus any pain whilst walking will also be combated.
- Plus drink plenty of water to help with circulation.
- And although this may sound a little contradictory, but having a little walk around will also help. This will keep your blood circulating properly and relieve the pressure. Just remember to elevate afterwards.
Remember you are looking after a wound, a beautifully crafted wound. It needs to be looked after. Tattoos take around twp weeks to heal on the surface, but up to three months to fully heal under the surface, so take care.
And if you are reading this prior to having your tattoo, it is worth considering only having one leg/foot done at a time. You are going to need the other leg to compensate, especially when you get up from sitting or laying down. You know that rush of blood feeling you get when you’ve cut the circulation to one of your feet by sitting on it too long? You get the same feeling with a swollen leg tattoo. Do you want that in both legs? I thought not.
Everything above is perfectly normal. Swelling and pressure is a likely outcome from a large tattoo, and isn’t something to worry about. Do the above and you will be fine in no time.
You should only worry if the swelling doesn’t go down after a week, or of the skin around your tattoo starts going red. This could be a sign of infection, and if you are worried, please see your doctor (I am not medically trained in anyway, which is why I am saying could and should, rather than will – if you have questions, go back to your tattoo artist or see your GP, especially if your symptoms persist for over a week or you are in a lot of pain even whilst resting.)
Don’t get me wrong, I love my calf tattoo. And despite the discomfort and the ‘cankles’, I would do it all again on the other leg. I will just be starting my anti-swelling techniques a little sooner next time.
What are your tips to stop swelling after a leg or foot tattoo?
Have you experienced the same thing?
Read about popping your tattoo cherry here, how I prepare for a tattoo session here and tips for healing tattoos with Palmers Cocoa Butter here for beautiful colour-popping healing.