Art Therapy for Migraine Relief – Does It Work?
In our previous article, we introduced the idea of going through art therapy as a way to potentially reduce migraine pain. Today, let’s take a further look at how this process would theoretically work and some factors that may influence your decision to try art therapy!
How It Can Help
One of the main goals of art therapy is to help you manage your pain. It accomplishes this by reducing the perception of pain. The perception of pain is lowered by shifting one’s attention away from what is causing the pain. In other words, one starts to mentally focus less on what is stimulating the pain and more on the task at hand, which is to create a piece of artwork. You can say this is simply a form of distraction! ?♀️
There is more to art therapy than just distracting one from the pain, though. This form of therapy teaches individuals practicing it how to calm and modify one’s mood to prevent the pain from taking control of one’s emotions.
In a practical sense, studies have shown that art therapy can be helpful to a certain extent and has been used in various healthcare settings for pain/symptoms management [1-4]. A study in 2018 involving almost 200 participants revealed that engaging in art therapy for about 50 minutes resulted in a reduction in the intensity of pain . The therapy also raised their general moods and reduced anxiety. Most significantly, the results applied for all participants regardless of their age, gender, or diagnosis! ?
The other indirect way that art therapy can be helpful for migraine is through the reduction in stress. Since stress is one of the most prevalent triggers of migraine attacks, by using therapies that target a reduction in stress, the frequency of migraine attacks can also be potentially decreased. Art therapy, along with other forms of interventions, has demonstrated positive results in reducing stress in participants—a significant point for consideration [5-9]!
While it has been understood that art therapy has the capacity to reduce pain, there has been no scientific study to show a direct link between the reduction in migraine attacks and the therapy. Anecdotal stories from the migraine community point out that art therapy has been helpful to manage their migraine pain, but whether this therapy can eventually play a role in reducing the number of attacks remains unexplored.
There are some limitations to take into account before you engage in art therapy. One such factor is cost—art therapy may not be the most affordable option for everyone and not all of us would also have access to such therapists! Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from producing art at home to creatively express your feelings and without the structure of a therapy session!
The second limitation is that if you are highly sensitive to smells, using paints that have strong chemical smells may even worsen your migraine and this would not be pleasant at all. Consider other mediums that do not involve strong chemicals, for example pencil drawings! Lastly, the light conditions of the environment where you are working (computer screens or bright rooms) may also have an impact on the severity of your attacks.
Before we conclude this topic of art therapy and migraine, an interesting point to share is that the relationship between migraine and creative expression through art is not entirely new. In fact, there were migraine art competitions held in the 1980s where participants were able to submit works to portray their experiences of life with migraine .
Today, artworks depicting various aspects of migraine can be found in all sorts of digital mediums on the Internet and plays a part in creating more awareness of this invisible condition!
We also need to understand that while art therapy may present hope for pain management, it should not replace conventional migraine medications, unless recommended by your doctor. Art therapy can of course serve as a supplement to your existing treatment plans!
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have other relief methods that you’ve tried and have they been helpful for you? Please share them in the chat group below! ?