The Visualisation of Chronic Pain

By: Niamh Mc Conaghy  

It is widely acknowledged that creative engagement can help to shape society and culture. Art allows us to extend our reality to the depth of our unconscious – an outlet that does not require verbal articulation, but more so, subjective understanding. Over the past thirty years, the arts have gained notoriety in helping to shape and promote a more comprehensive and accessible approach to education, communication and coping methods of personal health experiences and of public health. In May 2019, the International Association for the Study of Pain stated that chronic pain affects 20% of people worldwide. Sufferers may be aware that there is evidence to support the theory that visual art can help to more effectively manage psychological elements of chronic pain, but what is lacking is an accessible method of delivery. The experience of chronic pain obtains resemblance to the subjectivity of visual art in that it can often be difficult to verbally articulate and comprehensively express meaning and understanding. Chronic pain challenges the sufferer due to the extensive range of biopsychosocial, interchanging and daily challenges, which can be both effects and effectors of felt physical pain. An approach is needed that assists sufferers to communicate the complete lived experience of pain, which is inclusive of psychosocial elements.

Art and Health, Health Communication, Visual Art, Arts-based Approaches, Research
The Arts in Social, Political, and Community Life
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Niamh Mc Conaghy

PhD Researcher, Arts, Humanities and Social Science, Ulster University, Ireland