Painting As Pain Therapy

Artistic Pursuits as Therapeutic Outlets for Pain Management

Engaging in painting and artistic pursuits has been recognized as a potent form of therapy for individuals dealing with physical and emotional pain. While traditional medical treatments remain important, creative activities like painting can complement pain management strategies, providing relief and promoting overall well-being. Several studies and experts have highlighted the therapeutic benefits of art in managing pain.

1. Expressive Outlet and Emotional Release: Artistic activities, including painting, offer individuals a non-verbal means to express complex emotions and experiences related to pain. The process of creating art can serve as an emotional release, allowing individuals to communicate feelings that might be difficult to articulate verbally. According to researchers, the act of engaging in creative expression can alleviate emotional distress and contribute to a sense of catharsis (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).

2. Distraction and Mindfulness: Artistic pursuits provide a diversion from pain by engaging individuals’ attention in a positive and absorbing manner. This distraction can effectively reduce the perception of pain. Additionally, art encourages mindfulness, as individuals focus their attention on the present moment while engaging in the creative process. Mindfulness techniques have been associated with decreased pain sensitivity and increased pain tolerance (Monti et al., 2006).

3. Empowerment and Sense of Achievement: The act of creating art empowers individuals, allowing them to regain a sense of control over their bodies and experiences. The creation of something beautiful or meaningful can counteract feelings of helplessness often associated with pain. Moreover, completing a painting or artistic project fosters a sense of achievement, boosting self-esteem and enhancing the individual’s overall mood (Malchiodi, 2012).

4. Neurobiological Mechanisms: Neuroscientific research suggests that engaging in artistic activities can trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the brain. The brain’s reward centers are activated during creative endeavors, leading to a positive emotional response that can counteract pain-related distress (Kaimal et al., 2016).

5. Social Connection: Participating in art classes or workshops can provide opportunities for social interaction and connection. Sharing artistic experiences with others fosters a sense of community and belonging, which can contribute to emotional well-being and help individuals cope with pain-related isolation (Schneider et al., 2017).

Incorporating painting and other artistic pursuits into pain management strategies aligns with a holistic approach to well-being. It’s important to note that artistic therapy is not a replacement for medical treatment but a complementary tool that can enhance overall pain management. As with any therapeutic approach, the effectiveness of art in managing pain may vary from person to person, and individuals should explore what works best for them in consultation with healthcare professionals.

Absolute beginner learns to paint with acrylics

I’ve discovered in the past that painting can be very therapeutic. In short, it can be a great activity for people in pain: physical pain, psychological pain, spiritual pain, etc. This is something that really has to be experienced to understand. I can’t really explain how it helps.

In the past, I’ve painted with watercolors. I want to get started with acrylic paints. So, I’m using this page to teach myself. Perhaps it will be helpful to you also.

To begin, I found a helpful guide called How To Use Acrylic Paint – A Beginners Guide. The author is listed as Kathleen. I’m going to sort of summarize this guide to try and get it straight in my mind. One of my objectives is to figure out what exactly I need to purchase at the art supply store. I also want to learn how to begin actually painting with acrylics.

Let’s get started.

Supplies that I need

  • Acrylic paints: you obviously need acrylic paints. It appears there are 2 different types: varying by thickness. She recommends starting with 6 to 8 colors in addition to some tubes of white, black, burnt umber. I think I’d want yellow, red, blue, brown…what else? I don’t know.
  • Brushes: obviously you need some brushes. This seems it could complicated.
  • Canvas or thick paper: clearly you need to put the paint on something.
  • Palette: it seems like plastic works well here.
  • Palette knife: you use this to mix the paints on the palette. It sounds like you can also use it to put the pain on the canvas.
  • Water: sounds like you need a lot of water. Sounds like you need to change the water often. So, I’ll need some sort of container to hold the water. I imagine I have something kicking around here I could use. I have a handy sink nearby. This part shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Spray bottle of water: this seems to be a good idea to keep the acrylic paints wet. From article: “Keep a spray bottle loaded with water on hand and spritz the colors on your palette every now and then to keep them wet.”
  • Scrap Paper and Rag: to blot brush on while painting. This shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Gesso: so, if the canvas I get hasn’t been prepped yet, I’ll need to prime it with some coats of gesso.

Sidenote: I was looking on Amazon, and they have some beginner kits that have everything above. No doubt many of the low price ones aren’t professional-grade, but the point is that it seems like I can give this a go without investing too heavily initially. Let me see how it works out first.

How to make a painting

  • Prep canvas: if it hasn’t been prepped yet, prime it with gesso. Sounds like it needs 2 to 3 layers. And, you have to let them dry in-between each application. I could probably prep multiple canvases at the same time it sounds like.
  • Keep paints wet: Use a spray bottle with water to keep the palette paints wet.
  • Start with damp brush: this seems to be  a good approach.
  • Keep caps on paint tubes: they will dry out if you don’t and your money investment is wasted.
  • Leave the brushes dipped in the water jar while painting and switching brushes around to keep the paint from drying and hardening on the bristles. Make sure the ferrule isn’t soaked in as this will cause the glue inside to soften.”
  • Wash brushes with just soap and water. No need for turpentine when using acrylics.

Sources I used for this article

  • Kaimal, G., Ray, K., & Muniz, J. (2016). Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making. Art Therapy, 33(2), 74-80.
  • Malchiodi, C. A. (2012). The Art Therapy Sourcebook. McGraw Hill Professional.
  • Monti, D. A., Peterson, C., Kunkel, E. J. S., Hauck, W. W., Pequignot, E., Rhodes, L., & Brainard, G. C. (2006). A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Mindfulness‐Based Art Therapy (MBAT) for Women with Cancer. Psycho‐Oncology, 15(5), 363-373.
  • Schneider, S. M., Grandi, L. C., & Mendoza, M. E. P. (2017). An Integrative Review of Art-Based Social Support Groups for Women with Cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 26(10), 1373-1380.
  • Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The Connection between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254-263.