The art of chronic pain


Pain is invisible – and people with pain often find it difficult to express exactly what their pain is like in words… BUT art can express so much that words can’t and the art of chronic pain can be found in all sorts of places.

Today I was given a pamphlet from a nonprofit organisation called PAIN Exhibit in the US.  The organiser and creator of this group is Mark Collen, who has experienced chronic pain for over ten years.  If you go to the website PainExhibit.com, you’ll find some incredibly powerful images created by people who have chronic pain.  Some of the images are hard to look at, they’re so evocative.

Mark has published a brief pamphlet about chronic pain, and the website also has some information about chronic pain, but the main purpose of the site is to use art to communicate.  It is hoped that by communicating, people will find it easier to listen and learn more and eventually reduce ignorance and lack of treatment.

If you’ve a mind to look at more painful images – Flickr has some incredibly powerful images (not just photographs) of pain.  Again, some are very hard to look at, but clearly demonstrate the emotional impact that pain has.

Art has been used for expressing the impact of pain – collage can be used to by patients to express the impact of pain on parts of their lives and also to explore future options.  It’s also a great activity in which people can use their activity regulation, posture, distraction and other strategies while at the same time being involved in an expressive activity (there speaks an OT from years gone by!).

I couldn’t resist this illustration – by Jason Smith, from Endeavours Magazine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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