22 Stunning Tattoos Inspired by Chronic Pain

By Erin Migdol,

Tattoos are fun to design and beautiful to look at, but they can also serve as daily reminders of the words and images that inspire you to fight through your chronic pain. Inking a powerful quote, one of favorite fictional character, or a symbol of the disease itself onto your body is, for many people, a permanent homage to your strength in getting through your pain.

We asked our Mighty community with chronic pain to share their own tattoos they got to commemorate their resiliency and strategies for dealing with the pain. For these chronic pain warriors, the pain of getting the tattoo is worth the strength they derive from their ink.

Here’s what our community showed us:

1. “This is mine! It represents all rare diseases, in my case Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which can be very painful… The flowers represent ‘life.’ Even though it hurts, life has so many beautiful things for us.”

tattoo on leg of zebra and flowers

2. “Genesis 50:20 – ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.’ These two words help me get through each day. I believe God will use my situation for good. Somehow, someway.”

tattoo on arm that says but god

3. “Mandalas can be used for meditating and feeling tranquil. For me, this is a promise of self-acceptance and peace with my body despite the pain. I’m no longer allowing guilt and shame for things that aren’t my fault. It’s been a long journey and thats why my tattoo means so much to me.”

tattoo of colorful mandala design on upper arm

4. “I have this. It’s schoolboy Latin for, ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ It’s taken from one of my favorite books (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’) but also a reminder to not let pain beat me!”

large tattoo of roses and vines on upper arm

5. “‘Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’ It desperately needs filling in, but of my 16 tattoos this one is my favorite inspirational ink.”

tattoo of writing on back of shoulder

6. “This tattoo has several components that reference my struggles with mental illness and chronic pain. It has the semicolon (my life isn’t over yet) and the butterfly which to me means re-birth.”

tattoo on ankle of butterfly and semicolon

7. “’Invictus’ means unconquered in Latin; it’s also the name of my favorite poem that I relate to very much with my battle with chronic pain.”

tattoo on back of shoulder that says invictus and image of compass

8. “’Per aspera ad astra’ – Latin for “through adversity to the stars.” I got this for my 16th birthday. It has inspired me as I deal with chronic pain (EDS), Tourette’s syndrome, migraines, depression and POTS.”

tattoo on arm of latin phrase

9.I was burned with third-degree burns on 60 percent of my body 12 years ago and still deal with a frequent surgeries and nerve pain. I also have lupus which causes a ton of pain and other serious issues. For both, music is my main escape and helps me get through the pain and all the struggles that come with it… Since music has been so important in my journey I got tattoo of a heart with headphones and music notes. The heartbeat represents the music keeping me alive and the blood drop represents all the pain I’ve gone through and overcome.”

tattoo of heart with music notes and headphones around it

10.I have a tattoo of a phoenix on my back to express the strength it takes to rise from your own ashes and to stay true to yourself. No matter how hard it is, you will always renew yourself, better, stronger and more beautiful than before. And even if other people only see what they choose to see (the good days etc), you know the pain and struggle it took (takes) to be so bright and strong.”

tattoo of phoenix on woman's back

11. “I have chronic pain in both my shoulders/arms so I’ve gotten this back piece and half sleeves to show the slow painful process.”

colorful tattoo across back of shoulders and upper arms

12.This is for my kidney disease. It’s based after a Tom Petty line, ‘You belong among the wildflowers.’ It’s my reminder that I am strong and beautiful and can grow wherever I am planted. My disease does not define me, I do.”

colorful tattoo of flowers on side of woman's body

13. “This was my first tattoo. After suffering a life-threatening infection that took my mediport, I got this to symbolize my strength and ability to survive.”

tattoo of wings on man's chest

14. “Helps me to remember to be positive, even when things are dark. The moth is purple to symbolize fibromyalgia. Tattoo by Christina ‘Charlie’ Petty.”

tattoo of lamp and flowers with words always find the light

15.Just keep swimming… until you learn to fly.”

tattoos on foot of dory and words just keep swimming and dumbo and words until you learn to fly

16. “Two months after I’ve got diagnosed with Crohn’s, I went to get my first one. It represents infinite strength, and the birds mean you always have to go forward and fight. The anchor means ‘safe at home.’”

tattoo on ankle of anchor and word strength

17. “Tigers show strength and I got this tiger tattoo so I can look at it every day to remind me how strong I am and how I will continue fighting all the issues I have with my spine (four spine surgeries in 16 months) and also all the long term effects I now have due to all the damage.”

tattoo of tiger eyes

18. “This mindfulness symbol is to remind me to calmly accept and acknowledge how I feel at the moment, without letting it overtake me, and to focus on my ‘dealing’ techniques.
The ‘breathe’ is in my husband’s handwriting, as he is always by my side to help with the kids and home when I am in pain, to keep my depression and anxiety at bay, and to just hold me and offer his shoulder. The semicolon is to say that that it’s not the end, that there’s more, and to keep pushing through.”

tattoo on wrist that says breathe with semicolon and drop in water symbol

19. “My warrior arrow.”

tattoo on woman's arm of arrow

20. “I have this because I want people to know they aren’t alone, and I think that can be the most important thing when you’re in pain.”

tattoo that says me too

21. “The Red Tara, embodiment of fierce compassion. She’s a badass! Reminds me to be good to myself and that I’m tougher than I give myself credit for. She’s also holding a purple flower which you can’t really see in this pic which represents lupus and a handful of other autoimmune illnesses.”

woman's arm with tattoo of woman's face in red

22.

tattoo of words mind and matter with a line between them

Editor’s note: For questions or concerns regarding the effect getting a tattoo may have on your health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

This study was published by The Mighty.

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