Sensory art therapies for the self-management of chronic pain symptoms

Pain Med. 2014 Apr:15 Suppl 1:S66-75. doi: 10.1111/pme.12409.


Objectives: Chronic pain management typically consists of prescription medications or provider-based, behavioral, or interventional procedures which are often ineffective, may be costly, and can be associated with undesirable side effects. Because chronic pain affects the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), patient-centered complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) therapies that acknowledge the patients' roles in their own healing processes have the potential to provide more efficient and comprehensive chronic pain management. Active self-care CIM therapies (ACT-CIM) allow for a more diverse, patient-centered treatment of complex symptoms, promote self-management, and are relatively safe and cost-effective. To date, there are no systematic reviews examining the full range of ACT-CIM used for chronic pain symptom management.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted, using Samueli Institute's rapid evidence assessment of the literature methodology, to rigorously assess both the quality of the research on ACT-CIM modalities and the evidence for their efficacy and effectiveness in treating chronic pain symptoms. A working group of subject matter experts was also convened to evaluate the overall literature pool and develop recommendations for the use and implementation of these modalities.

Results: Following key database searches, 146 randomized controlled trials were included in the review, eight of which investigated sensory art therapies, as defined by the authors.

Conclusions: This article summarizes the current evidence, quality, efficacy, and safety of these modalities. Recommendations and next steps to move this field of research forward are also discussed. The entire scope of the review is detailed throughout the current Pain Medicine supplement.

Keywords: Chronic Pain; Complementary and Integrative Medicine; Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Literature; Self-Care; Sensory Art Therapies; Systematic Review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy / methods
  • Narration
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Self Care / methods*
  • Sensory Art Therapies / methods*