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Airing Pain 56: Images and Perceptions

Artist’s impres­sions of pain in the clin­ic, and club­bing or mod­el rail­ways? Why liv­ing a good life with pain is in the eye of the beholder

This edi­tion has been fund­ed by a grant from the Scot­tish Government.

If only pain were visible…Deborah Pad­field talks to pro­duc­er Paul Evans about her project col­lab­o­rat­ing with peo­ple with pain to pro­duce works of art that rep­re­sent their expe­ri­ences. Her pho­tographs are co-cre­ations, using objects and ideas brought to the stu­dio by the oro­fa­cial pain patients from Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Hos­pi­tals, London.

The art pro­duced not only pro­vides a voice for indi­vid­u­als who may have felt their expe­ri­ences mar­gin­alised by the med­ical estab­lish­ment and wider soci­ety, but is also part of a study aimed at find­ing bet­ter ways for peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate their pain. Images cre­at­ed by Pad­field – from a clenched fist to fly­ing sparks – are now being tri­alled by patients not part of the project as visu­al prompts in ordi­nary med­ical consultations.

‘Pain is a mem­o­ry’, says Dr Rajesh Munglani, explain­ing how the way we feel pain is affect­ed by past expe­ri­ences and our emo­tions. From the phan­tom limb pain of a sol­dier wound­ed in action to an injured motorist caught up in a bit­ter legal strug­gle for com­pen­sa­tion, the con­text of chron­ic pain can be cru­cial in help­ing or hin­der­ing peo­ple from mov­ing on. The dif­fer­ent ways peo­ple per­ceive their pain also means, Dr Munglani argues, that per­haps pac­ing is not right for every­one, all of the time – a big night out might mean a few days in bed for a teenag­er with pain, but pro­vide an impor­tant boost to their confidence.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Arts and crafts, oro­fa­cial pain, com­mu­ni­cat­ing pain, pain per­cep­tion, neu­ro­path­ic pain, trigem­i­nal neu­ral­gia, visu­al­i­sa­tion, mem­o­ry, ampu­ta­tion and phan­tom limb pain.


  • Dr Deb­o­rah Pad­field, Artist and Researcher, Slade School of Art, Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege London
  • Dr Rajesh Munglani, Con­sul­tant in Pain Med­i­cine, West Suf­folk Hos­pi­tal, Bury St Edmunds.