SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new study from UC Davis found visiting an art museum could be a remedy for chronic pain.
Over the course of several months, patients suffering from chronic pain were invited to the Crocker Art Museum to be studied and questioned.
“We made every effort we could to create an intimate and welcoming environment for them,” said Dr. Ian Koebner, director of integrative pain management at UC Davis.
He studies pain remedies and four years ago, decided to reach out to the Crocker Art Museum.
“He said, ‘I have this idea, I don’t know if it’ll work, can we partner on it?’” recalled Erin Dorn, adult education and art access coordinator at Crocker.
He told them he wanted to bring patients of all ages into the museum who had suffered from chronic pain and study the impact of the visit on their pain.
“He evaluated them before the tour, after the tour and then a few weeks later,” Dorn said.
She told CBS13 the 54 patients involved had in-depth conversations about the art.
“Basically what the docent would ask is ‘What do you see?’” she said.
They spent 20 to 30 minutes looking at details such as people, landscapes, and colors. The result?
“During the tour, people did have pain relief,” Dorn said.
“Isolation can be a big part of the pain experience,” Koebner explained. “We found that individuals did feel more socially connected from pre- to post-tour.”
It’s unclear whether the art itself or the entire experience was most effective at relieving pain. Dr. Koebner says he hopes to figure that out in his next study. But the takeaway here is that medication, like opioids, doesn’t have to be the only remedy for chronic pain; that social interaction can compliment a doctor’s prescription.
“We’re not suggesting that going to the museum is going to cure all of one’s chronic pain issues,” Koebner said. “But patients are really reporting a lot of benefit from it.”
The in-depth sessions are part of at Crocker’s Art Rx program. The next free class is Sept. 8 and it’s open to the public.
Koebner will host a public discussion on Oct. 21 exploring the potential role of museums as partners in public health.