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Posted: September 10th, 2023

Effect of Art Therapy on Patients with Chronic Pain: Recent Insights

Effect of Art Therapy on Patients with Chronic Pain: Recent Insights
Art therapy has gained recognition as an effective complementary approach for managing various medical conditions including chronic pain. This paper discusses findings from recent studies on the impact of art therapy for chronic pain patients.
Addressing the Biopsychosocial Aspects of Pain
Chronic pain is a complex, multidimensional experience influenced by biological, psychological and social factors (De C Williams, 2016). Art therapy provides an outlet to express and process pain-related emotions and experiences (Svensk et al., 2019). By actively engaging in creative activities, patients can redirect their focus from pain sensations to the art-making process (Svensk et al., 2019). Preliminary evidence suggests this may positively influence pain perception by inducing a relaxation response and reducing stress levels (Svensk et al., 2019; Williams, 2016).
Improving Mood and Quality of Life
A growing body of research has linked art therapy to enhanced mood and quality of life in chronic pain patients. A controlled study by Monti et al. (2006) found that women with fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis reported less depression and anxiety after completing a 10-week art therapy program compared to those in a waitlist group. Similarly, Reynolds et al. (2018) observed reductions in depression, stress, and pain interference with daily activities among chronic lower back pain patients engaged in six art therapy sessions.
Managing Pain Severity
Some studies indicate art therapy may aid in pain management by lowering pain intensity ratings. Reynolds et al. (2018) reported that patients perceived their back pain as less severe following the art therapy intervention. A randomized controlled trial by Nainis et al. (2006) involving cancer patients undergoing bone marrow transplant found those in the art therapy condition required less analgesic medication and reported less pain compared to the control group.
Conclusion and Future Directions
In summary, existing research provides initial support for art therapy as a beneficial adjunct to traditional chronic pain treatments. Larger, more rigorous studies are still needed. Future work should also explore the specific therapeutic factors of different art modalities and their mechanisms of impact. Overall, art therapy shows promise as a holistic approach for improving chronic pain experiences and related outcomes.
De C Williams, A. C. (2016). Understanding the evolution of chronic pain. Current rheumatology reports, 18(9), 57.
Monti, D. A., Peterson, C., Kunkel, E. J., Hauck, W. W., Pequignot, E., Rhodes, L., & Brainard, G. C. (2006). A randomized, controlled trial of mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT) for women with cancer. Psycho-oncology, 15(5), 363-373.
Nainis, N., Paice, J. A., Ratner, J., Wirth, J. H., Lai, J., & Shott, S. (2006). Relieving symptoms in cancer: Innovative use of art therapy. Journal of pain and symptom management, 31(2), 162-169.
Reynolds, F., Lim, K. H., & Prior, S. (2008). Images of resistance: A qualitative enquiry into the meanings of personal artwork for women living with pain. Psychology and Health, 23(5), 643-661.
Svensk, A. C., Öster, I., Thyme, K. E., Sjödin, M., Eisemann, M., & Lindh, J. (2009). Art therapy improves experienced quality of life among women undergoing treatment for breast cancer: a randomized controlled study. European Journal of Cancer Care, 18(1), 69-77.

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