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Art therapy can help those in chronic pain

September 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's more to the healing arts than just medicine. Numerous studies show how creative expression through music, writing or art work can break the cycle of chronic pain. The topic was discussed at the For Grace's 3rd Annual Women in Pain Conference.For Radene Marie Cook, chronic, intense pain from injuries she suffered in a plane crash is a way of life.

"It means that my pain, there are so many signals and it's at such a severe level, that without treatment I'd have a heart attack or a stroke," said Cook.

Cook finds some relief in art, poetry and music.

"There's something about getting inner conflict and inner feelings out to where your eyes can see it," said Cook.

Artistic expression can be more than just a form of therapy. For pain that's difficult to describe, art can help patients communicate with their doctors.

"Some of the pain is indescribable when nerves are involved. It does bizarre stuff," said Cook. "But I could show them a picture of something being electrocuted and they could understand that."

Pain specialist Dr. David Bresler says art can be a distraction from the pain.

"When they realize that they're becoming obsessed and concentrating way too much on their pain, they need to break that cycle in some way, and let their mind focus on other kinds of things," said Bresler.

One powerful prescription: focusing on the positive.

"One of the things that we've learned is that whatever you give attention to, grows," said Bresler. "Whether it's your garden, your children, or your worries, anxieties and fears. When people pay so much attention to pain, the pain will grow."

It's that advice -- and art -- that keeps a smile on Cook's face.

"I wanted to put on the walls everything that I could look to and grab immediately that told me I was going to make it," said Cook. "It's a reminder to say, 'Yes, I can and it's going to be OK in the end.'"


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