Art Imitates Pain


Every day I must ask patients how they rate their pain.  It seems stupid and patients are frequently stumped.

ME: Where is your pain on a scale from zero to ten with ten being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced and zero being no pain.

THEM: It hurts.

ME: I know, but can you put it on that scale?

THEM: It freakin’ hurts a lot.

ME: So like an 8?

THEM: Whatever.  Can you fix it?

A patient recently told me about the PAIN exhibit  The PAIN Exhibit is an educational, visual arts exhibit from artists with chronic pain with their art expressing some facet of the pain experience. The mission of the PAIN Exhibit is to educate healthcare providers and the public about chronic pain through art; and to give voice to the many who suffer in abject silence.

Some of the pieces on the website are awe-inspiring.  Some truly disturbing.  Most are poignent.  Many are worth seeing.

Perhaps instead of pressing patients for a pain rating, we should hand some of them a box of crayons.

Dr. Brett Kinsler is a chiropractor in Rochester, NY


  1. Amy Hengst said,

    September 15, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    I used to suffer from Repetitive stress injuries and had 8 months of workers’ comp therapy. My OT’s used to ask me this “pain rating” every time I visited and I always told them 3-4. The problem with the test is that there are many kinds of pain — shooting pain, aching pain, heaviness. And based on a patient’s previous experiences with pain, the rating may be different. I’ve had some serious acute injuries where the pain was unbearable, so in comparison, the pain from my RSIs was much less on a basic number scale.

    However, it’s easier to bear an unbearable pain for a short time, than a chronic minor pain that affects everything you do, from lifting a pen to a heavy box. I think it’s more effective to talk about kinds of pain, and how it’s affecting a patient’s life than rating on a number scale. Thanks for the art links, I’ll go check them out.

    Amy Hengst
    blogger at Home Treatment for RSI

  2. Nick said,

    November 12, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Okay, this pain exhibit thing is truly weird and probably right up my alley. I will check it out. It was the pic of the foot that caught my attention. The longer you look at it, the more disturbing it gets. How about a “Books” topic on this blog?! 🙂

  3. November 12, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Wow! A visit to our blog from the world reknowned science fiction author Nick DiChario (A Small and Remarkable Life, Valley of Day-glo). Tell you what, Nick…you write a book with a skeptical chiropractor protagonist and I’ll feel qualified enough to add a “Books” topic to the blog 🙂

    Thanks for your comments…you know I really am a fan of your writing and I urge my readers to check out Nick’s fantastic books, too.

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