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26th Napa Pain Conference

NPC26-Su3 - The Art of Pain Relief: How Museums May Help Address Chronic Pain

Aug 18, 2019 11:00am ‐ Aug 18, 2019 11:45am


The Art of Pain Relief

How Museums May Help Address Chronic Pain

Target Audience: Clinicians treating acute or chronic pain

Learning Objectives

As a result of participating in this activity, learners will be better able to:

  • Consider the neural and clinical overlaps of physical and social pain
  • Incorporate social wellbeing into treatment plans for persons with chronic pain


Individuals with chronic pain often feel stigmatized. This stigmatization furthers in the individual feelings of being discredited, devalued, rejected and socially excluded. In the previous decade, we’ve learned much about the neural underpinnings of physical and social pain. The experiences of social pain and social disconnection rely upon shared neurobiological substrates that underlie experiences of physical pain.

As a staple of most communities, museums are ideal locations to build social engagement. Museums are curated spaces, designed to be calming, inspirational and meaningful. By addressing social isolation, individuals with chronic pain can develop a sense of connection and belonging. Art museum tours for individuals with chronic pain are feasible, and participants reported positive effects on perceived social disconnection and pain.

Additional Reading

  • Koebner, I. J., Fishman, S. M., Paterniti, D., Sommer, D., Witt, C. M., Ward, D., & Joseph, J. G. (2018). The Art of Analgesia: A Pilot Study of Art Museum Tours to Decrease Pain and Social Disconnection Among Individuals with Chronic Pain. Pain Medicine, 20(4), 681-691.
  • Koebner, I. J., Fishman, S. M., Paterniti, D., Sommer, D., Ward, D., & Joseph, J. G. (2018). Curating Care: The Design and Feasibility of a Partnership Between an Art Museum and an Academic Pain Center. Curator: The Museum Journal, 61(3), 415-429.
  • Waugh O.C., Byrne D.G., Nicholas M.K. Internalized stigma in people living with chronic pain. J Pain. 2014;15(5):550.
  • Eisenberger N.I., Jarcho J.M., Lieberman M.D., Naliboff B.D. An experimental study of shared sensitivity to physical pain and social rejection. Pain. 2006;126(1):132-138.
  • DeWall C.N., MacDonald G., Webster G.D., et al. Acetaminophen reduces social pain behavioral and neural evidence. Psychol. Sci. 2010;21(7):931-937.
  • Master S.L., Eisenberger N.I., Taylor S.E., Naliboff B.D., Shirinyan D., Lieberman M.D. A Picture’s Worth Partner Photographs Reduce Experimentally Induced Pain. Psychol. Sci. 2009;20(11):1316-1318.e551-510.
  • Cohen M., Quintner J., Buchanan D., Nielsen M., Guy L. Stigmatization of patients with chronic pain: the extinction of empathy. Pain Med. 13 2011;12(11):1637-1643.


  • Ian Koebner, PhD, MSc, MAOM, LAc, Director of Integrative Pain Management, UC David Health

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