Attractions industry news

30 Aug 2018

The art of pain relief: study shows benefits of museum visits for chronic pain sufferers

A new study has suggested that touring a museum can have an analgesic effect on helping to alleviate the symptoms of people suffering from chronic pain.

Published in the journal Pain Medicine, research looked at Art Rx tours, where 56 patients with chronic pain took part in a series of private tours at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California.

The tours focused on the museum experience rather than specific objects of art, concentrating on just three-to-five paintings or other art objects during the one-hour sessions. Whenever possible, a gallery was blocked off to the public so study participants could also have privacy and be encouraged by a comfortable discussion.

They proved to be very beneficial, with more than half (57 per cent) of those who took part reporting reduced levels of pain up to three weeks following their visit. In addition, a lot of the participants reported a decrease in social disconnection, which the journal said was a common byproduct of chronic pain. They said that the museum tour offered a distraction from pain, with discussion of art making them feel more connected to those around them.

“Faced with the dual public health crises of chronic pain and misuse of opioid analgesics, it is essential that the social component of pain is both acknowledged and addressed," wrote lead author Ian Koebner, PhD, who also highlighted the "seldom addressed social dimension of pain".

No healthcare professionals are involved with Art Rx – a nonprofit organisation which aims to heal through the power of visual art. Researchers said this offered a “less stigmatising and more normalising" experience than traditional art therapy, as it doesn't involve explicit treatment or diagnosis of medical or mental health problems.

“Participants found Art Rx to be, among other things, inclusive, validating, and socially engaging. These qualities stood in stark contrast to the isolating nature of chronic pain described in their personal histories and the negative encounters many of them had with the health care system,” said Koebner.

“Socially based interventions for individuals with chronic pain supported by health care organisations, such as Art Rx, may help to mitigate not only the experience of isolation, but also the distressing associations that many individuals with chronic pain have with the healthcare system.”

Art Rx tours were launched at the Crocker Art Museum in 2014. They are held on a bi-monthly basis at no extra cost to the public. For more information, click here.

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