Museum tours ease chronic pain, study says

Research by the University of California has found that a one hour museum tour can alleviate feelings of chronic pain and reduce feelings of isolation.

The study, published in the journal Pain Medicine, invited participants to take part in a one hour tour of the Crocker Art Museum, California.

57 percent of chronic-pain patients who attended reported a decrease in their pain levels. This lasted up to three weeks after the tour. Most participants also reported feeling less socially disconnected.

Researchers found the experience provided a distraction for participants from their pain. The discussion of works of art also made them feel more connected to others. One participant said: “I’m looking at art and I am no longer my body–I’m in a place of connection.”

The programme, called Art Rx, is ongoing at the Crocker Art Museum. The UC Davis website describes the aim of the scheme: “to encourage positive experiences that reduce the burden of chronic pain and caregiver stress through specialized tours of the museum and facilitated discussion. The program is free and open to any individual with chronic pain and pallative caregivers. In addition, participants are encouraged to invite family members, friends, and caregivers to attend free of charge.”

Researchers said that the study addressed the “feasibility of a unique museum-based intervention targeting chronic pain, but also provokes reflection on the widely acknowledged but seldom addressed social dimension of pain.

“Faced with the dual public health crises of chronic pain and misuse of opioid analgesics it is essential that the social component of pain is both acknowledged and addressed.”

Research has long studied the health benefits of different activities – including visiting various attractions. A 2015 study found that visiting aquariums can improve physical and mental health. Earlier this year, the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers & Attractions (BALPPA) also highlighted the ‘hidden’ health benefits of Indoor Play Centres.

Images courtesy Crocker Art Museum

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