A creative approach to addressing chronic pain

Participants needed for research study at the Crocker Art Museum


Can participating in an arts program at a museum help someone with chronic pain feel more socially connected? Could it decrease the unpleasantness of pain?

Participants in this unique UC Davis Health study receive free admission to Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum.
Participants in this unique UC Davis Health study receive free admission to Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum.

That’s the type of questions pain management specialists at UC Davis Health are planning to investigate.

And they need volunteers, people who are suffering from chronic pain.

Researchers at the health system have just launched a study to develop and evaluate the potential benefits of museum-based programs. The programs are designed to address loneliness and social isolation, problems that can exacerbate pain and its intensity for chronic pain sufferers.

Those who meet the study’s criteria for participation may get assigned to at least one arts-related program at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum. Participants would need to be able to attend the program on one or two Saturday mornings, from 10 a.m. to noon.

As an added bonus, those chosen for the study will get to visit the museum for free and will be encouraged to bring their friends and family, too.

“Chronic pain is a complex condition,” said Ian Koebner, an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and the director of Integrative Pain Management at UC Davis Medical Center. “It affects the body, the mind, and can significantly impact social interactions. More than 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain, which is more than those stricken with heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined. We are trying to identify ways to more effectively address the problems associated with ongoing pain.”

Speaking of art and health care, check out this recent video about the healing value of UC Davis Health’s collection of original artworks that are displayed throughout the health system.

Koebner says previous studies have shown that social disconnection can cause a person’s pain to feel more intense. Studies have also indicated that social connection — positive interactions with other people — may help decrease the intensity of pain.

Koebner and his colleagues hope to learn if the museum experience can make a difference in the lives of those individuals with long-lasting pain.

To be eligible to participate in the study*, volunteers must meet the following criteria:

  1. 18 years of age or older
  2. English speaking
  3. Chronic pain (6 months or longer)
  4. Moderate pain or greater (4/10 or greater on a Numerical Rating Scale, range of 1 (no pain) — 10 (worst pain imaginable), in response to the question, "Over the past week what was your average pain intensity?")
  5. Moderately lonely or greater (Score of 4 or greater on a three-item Loneliness scale, range of 3 — 9)

To Learn More

If you are interested in participating in this study, or to get more information, visit the study page

* UC Davis Institutional Review Board #1415639-3