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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.
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