The Role of Art in Pain Management

Studies have found that the creation and appreciation of art can be therapeutic for cancer patients and their caregivers, by reducing symptoms related to pain and anxiety, including depression, tiredness, lack of appetite and shortness of breath.

Art and Art Therapy

Art encompasses many forms: painting, sketching, music, journaling, photography, sculpting or simply, the appreciation of any creative process and its result. Art Therapy, defined as a form of psychotherapy involving encouragement of free expression, can be conducted in group settings or individually by certified therapists. There is no age limit or physical limitation that would prohibit a patient or caregiver from being involved with this type of therapy.


Scientists have found that painting actually changes brain wave patterns along with altering hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. There were changes in the perception of pain and improved well-being. The benefits of a creative outlet to cancer patients included relaxation and a lessening of anxiety and depression. Art Therapy group sessions provided a safe place, allowing social support and interaction with those with similar experiences. There was an improvement in quality of life through self-expression and personal growth.

Patients and caregivers often find it difficult to express their anxieties, fears, frustration and sadness. Art was found to provide a way to more freely express those feelings, thoughts, experiences and emotions without verbalization.

The conclusions from the majority of the studies conducted stated that the benefits for cancer patients and their family caregivers – reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, alleviation of pain and an improved feeling of overall well-being – was significant.