All images are from communicatingchronicpain.org – submissions from everyday sufferers.
When I used to see a pain psychologist, she would often ask me to describe what my chronic pain would look like if it was visible – she was using a mindfulness technique that requires you to focus on your pain sensations. I never felt the words I used did it justice. And it’s the same when I try and describe what the pain feels like to friends and family – I say things like, it feels like my legs are on fire, that there are lots of little needles pressing into my skin and clamps on my hips forcing them together. I also suffer from allodynia (hypersensitivity) and its really hard to describe the horrible pain sensations I get from light touch/pressure and heat. I don’t feel my language is sufficient in showing what my pain really feels like. Communicating pain through art however, I think is a much more effective at helping non-sufferers understand. Art is incrediably powerful. Lets compare the statement ‘my chest is burning’ to the image above of a woman with a raging fire in her chest. The image conveys the severity of the pain that individual is feeling much more effectively than the words. Or the statement ‘I am in so much pain’ to the first image of a man’s head screaming in pain. I know which I think is more powerful…don’t you?! They do say that an image is worth a thousand words after all.
I believe using art would be a great way to develop and enhance chronic pain sufferers’ ability to communicate their pain not only to family members but to health professionals to help them understand rather than using language, which is very limiting, and very basic pain scales (scale of 1-10). Maybe next time I go to see my pain consultant i’ll take in a sketch with me and use that as a response when he asks me how I am doing with the pain. Have you ever expressed your pain through drawing, painting, sculpture or photography?