Can Physical Therapists Have Tattoos in 2023?

Thankfully, we’re in a much better place when it comes to the acceptance of body art (and particularly tattoos) than we were even just a few decades ago.

And while there may still be some stigmas and negative connotations attached to tattoos in certain industries, most professions have made huge steps towards being open and accepting of inked people.

Does the same apply to the field of physiotherapy? We see many sports stars proudly showing off their body art but is it as widely accepted among those who treat them? Can physical therapists have tattoos or do they have to hide them while on the job?

The answer is that it really depends.

Can Physical Therapists Have Tattoos?

What we do know for sure is that there’s no one rule prohibiting or encouraging physical therapists to have tattoos. As with many industries, it may ultimately come down to the policies and preferences of your employer or the specific environment in which you work.

For example, a physical therapist working in a private clinic may have more leeway to show off their tattoos than one working in a conservative hospital setting.

However, even in environments where visible tattoos may not be fully accepted, they can often be covered up with clothing or bandages while treating patients.

Ultimately, it’s important to consider the potential impact of visible tattoos on your professional image and the comfort of your patients. As a physical therapist, you want to maintain an approachable and trustworthy demeanor, so be sure to consider any concerns or biases that may be associated with visible body art.

At the end of the day, as long as you are able to effectively do your job and maintain a great level of professionalism, having tattoos should not hinder your success in the field of physical therapy.

Physiotherapists vs Other Medical Sectors

While it’s not unusual to see physiotherapists with visible tattoos, the same may not be as widely accepted in other medical sectors such as nursing or surgery.

This could be due to the fact that these professions often have a higher amount of direct contact with patients and any visible tattoos may make them feel uncomfortable. There’s still a weird conviction that a high-ranking doctor (eg. a surgeon performing life-saving operations) or even a nurse or a paramedic who is responsible for saving lives, cannot have visible tattoos.

Partially it might be down to the fact that most of the patients treated by physical therapists are not in a life or death situation, and so the personal appearance of the therapist may not be as crucial. For older patients, however, it’s still important to consider any potential biases or discomfort they may have.

Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that each individual and professional setting may have their own attitudes towards visible tattoos. Be sure to research and understand the policies of your workplace and make a decision from there about how to present yourself professionally.

Tattoos You Should Steer Clear Of

Regardless of whether you’re a physiotherapist, teacher or lawyer, there are certain tattoos that may be deemed inappropriate or unprofessional in any setting.

This includes offensive or explicit language/images, anything discriminatory or hateful, and facial or hand tattoos that are difficult to cover up.

To always err on the side of caution, it’s best to go for tasteful tattoos in easily coverable areas. Recommended options include smaller designs on the arms, legs, back or stomach.

What If You Need to Have It Covered?

If you do have more visible tattoos that may potentially conflict with the image or policies of your workplace, there are options for covering them up.

This can be done with clothing, bandages or even special tattoo cover up makeup (just be sure to patch test any new products before fully applying on your skin!).

In the most extreme of scenarios, an employer might ask you to remove a tattoo that’s impossible to cover. Such option should always be considered carefully, as tattoo removal can be a painful and lengthy process. It’s also far from cheap.

Why Tattoo Discrimination Is Still Allowed?

You’d think that in this day and age, when tattoos are no longer exclusively associated with deliquncy and are instead often seen as a form of self-expression, discrimination based on body art would be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Legally-speaking, at least in the United States (this will differ across other countries), employers can still discriminate against employees or potential hires based on their tattoos.

This means that in some cases, even if a physical therapist is fully qualified and capable of doing their job well, they may be passed up for opportunities because of visible tattoos.

Such decisions are protected by the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace but only based on certain characteristics such as race, religion, and sex – not appearance or personal traits.

In some instances, an inked person discriminated against might have a case if his or her tattoo has a religious significance or is considered to be a form of expression protected under the First Amendment. But in general, discrimination based on tattoos is unfortunately still legal and pervasive in many industries.

Tattoo Ideas for Physiotherapists

If you are a physiotherapist or considering pursuing this career, and also want to get tattoos, it’s important to consider how they may impact your professional image.

Some ideas for tattoo designs that could be appropriate for physical therapists include:

  • Anatomical drawings or images related to the human body
  • Symbols representing physical therapy or healing
  • Motivational quotes or mantras
  • Custom designs incorporating your favorite type of exercise or sport
  • Inspirational figures in the field, such as Dr. Ida Rolf or physical therapist and yoga teacher Lillee Chandra.

Remember to choose a design and placement that won’t be too distracting or controversial for your patients and colleagues. And always make sure to check with your workplace’s policies before getting inked.

So, Can You Be a Therapist With Tattoos? Summary

In short, physical therapists can have tattoos.

However, it’s important to be aware of any potential conflicts with workplace policies and image.

Tasteful designs in easily coverable areas are typically the safest option. And if necessary, tattoo cover up options are available.

Unfortunately, discrimination based on tattoos is still legal in many industries – including physiotherapy – so it’s always important to consider how visible body art may impact your professional path and opportunities.

But at the end of the day, as long as a therapist is qualified and capable in their job, their tattoos should not affect their abilities to effectively help and heal their patients.