Sufferers of chronic pain turn to art to depict their struggle

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Recently, an art exhibit on pain attempted to convey a glimpse of the sometimes little understood world of those who are chronic pain sufferers. It is no surprise that an exhibit such as this one would surface in the media as pain is so difficult to describe. Many that have chronic pain turn to art to depict their struggle. According to Allan I. Basbaum, editor-in-chief of Pain, the medical journal of The International Association for the Study of Pain, “It’s often much more difficult to put pain into words, which is one of the big problems with pain… You can’t articulate it, and you can’t see it. There is no question people often try to illustrate their pain.” Mark Collen, age 47 and a former insurance salesman, struggled after losing his regular doctor to retirement to communicate his pain to his new physician. As a result, and with no art training, Mr. Collen created a piece of art to depict his pain to his physician. According to Mr. Collen, “It was only when I started doing art about pain, and physicians saw the art, that they understood what I was going through.” The following is an interesting article from the New York Times that discusses the subject:

Finding ways to communicate pain is essential to patients who are suffering, many of whom don’t receive adequate treatment from doctors. In January, Virtual Mentor, the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, reported that certain groups are less likely to receive adequate pain care. Hispanics are half as likely as whites to receive pain medications in emergency rooms for the same injuries; older women of color have the highest likelihood of being undertreated for cancer pain; and being uneducated is a risk factor for poor pain care in AIDS patients, the journal reported.

Some of the images from the Pain Exhibit, like “Broken People” by Robert S. Beal of Tulsa, Okla., depict the physical side of pain. Others, such as “Against the Barrier to Life,” convey the emotional challenges of chronic pain. “I feel like I am constantly fighting against a tidal wave of pain in order to achieve some quality of life,’’ wrote the work’s creator, Judith Ann Seabrook of Happy Valley in South Australia. “I am in danger of losing the fight and giving up.”

Click here to read the rest of this article from the New York Times

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