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Through Art and Sound: A Social Journey in the Experience of Pain

Laura Hernandez

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

Content warning: Flashing lights. People with chronic pain may have limited social lives, experiencing sadness, otherness, and even feeling like their pain is not believed. Pain-related disability can affect those caring for people with pain, eliciting feelings of stress. Still, high-quality relationships might positively affect individuals with pain, and pain validation could help them cope. These complex relationships between pain and social life inspired our digital mixed media sculpture. First, images projected onto the brain figure portray sensations of pain, accompanied by emotions of hurt and isolation. The sharp sound of pain and its distortion allude to pain intensity and feeling pain itself. Then, enriching, healthy relationships co-occur despite the pain. Taken from Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1, the music depicts a conversation between pain (the resonant violin) and one’s social network (voice) to mirror how social life intersperses the experiences of those with pain. As the song progresses, the note symbolizing pain is constantly present; however, the final chord sings the harmony that supportive, high-quality relationships may bring, as family and friends journey with individuals with chronic pain. Conceptualization and sculpture: Laura Hernández, William Forero, Mica Marbil Visuals: Laura Hernández, William Forero Audio: Laura Hernández, Mica Marbil

Decoration/Deterioration

Lucy Sharpe

A Person with Lived Experience

One of the most isolating factors of chronic pain for me is that my condition is not visible. Last year I had a particularly bad flare up. Standing, sitting, pretty much anything that wasn’t lying down caused shooting nerve pain. It was so strange to be so consumed by it while doing everyday things like going to class and shopping for groceries. There was such a profound disconnect between my interior experience and the way I was being perceived. This painting is my attempt to externalize these feelings. I wanted to paint something confronting, that forced people to think about their own relationships to their bodies. The only way I have found to successfully navigate the world in while in pain is to be endlessly compassionate towards my body and it’s needs. This is not always easy: Pain makes me angry, and sad, and often ungenerous towards myself and others. The little hair clips and the string of pearls represent the little things I do to care for myself and remind myself of the beauty and capability of my body. It was important to me that I represent both the pain and the care in this piece.

Pain and the Circle of Life

Eglee Gimon

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

Pain alerts us of something wrong with our physical being, and its expression can be magnified or diminished by circumstances in our personal/ social/ spiritual life. Throughout our life we are exposed to circumstances that may lead us to experience pain and pain may also influence the way we interact with others around us. Furthermore, throughout our life we are influenced by the roles played by people in our lives, and we ourselves play roles that change our experience of pain. This picture depicts the circle of life, the person is going through the stages of life, influenced by different roles of others in ones life and also by also playing roles oneself within the societal sphere . The roles are depicted by hats, the ones worn/played by the person are shadowed in yellow, the roles played by others are not shadowed in yellow but do influence the person’s life by setting limits, creating stressors or providing coping mechanisms.

Sinus Brio and Me with Errands Get Together Go Go Go

Nadia Osman

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

My work is Drawing of my Sinus headaches. Which is typically have the following terrible symptoms: Pressure-like pain in one specific area of your face or head , Jaw, cheeks , Eyes, behind your eyes) Face is tender to the touch. Pain is worse with sudden movements of the head and bending forward. Can’t organize myself for the day and few days, uncomfortable, incomplete tasks, Shock pains all over , Feeling like missing piece of puzzle all thoughts of black all over my mind , thoughts. Trying to solve, fix, and ponder over.

The Solitudes of Pain

Lesley Singer

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

My granddaughter sketched this at school and when I saw it it made me think of the social isolation of youth in pain.

Hidden People

Samantha Zrobin

A Person with Lived Experience

This picture depicts the social life of a person in chronic pain. The pain wraps itself around like a tree branch, smothering their skin, piercing them. They are often hidden in the background, fading away from their friends. They often watch their friends, participate in activities.

Still Good

Kristina Bogdan

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

The painting depicts a browned and bruised banana amongst a bunch unblemished ones. The bruised banana represents the individual whose body, identity, and wellbeing has been impacted by their experiences of living with chronic pain. The unblemished bananas represent people who are close with the individual in pain, such as family and friends. The bruised banana is part of the bunch and therefore included with them if purchased. Although chronic pain is often deemed invisible to others, those living with it may feel as though they are branded as undesirable by the world around them. Despite this, the bruised banana is still good – perhaps even better -- due to its desirability as an ingredient for desserts. The ripened banana in the painting is garnished with accents of reflective, golden paint to represent the beauty and value it brings to the bunch.

Lives with Chronic Pain

Sandra Woods

A Person with Lived Experience

Although it’s estimated that One in Five Canadians lives with chronic pain, this condition is often linked with social isolation. We might say that “misery loves company”, but no one really wants to listen to someone talk about their persistent – ongoing and possibly permanent – pain. So the person in pain becomes a pariah, the one left alone at social events – if they’re invited at all. In this image the background flame depicts the burning pain of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), with One in Five consumed by this orange fire. Of the Four blue figures, representing cooling comfort, all but One are looking away from the person in pain – ignoring their distress. It takes only One to provide comfort, and hope. Be that One person.

Awakening and Choosing to Exist

Anne-Marie Roy

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

Through my practice as a physiotherapist, I see people isolated with their chronic pain. The price for a simple outing is too high and the recovery time, too long. The isolation comes for many reasons, for example the physical limitations, feeling annoying with the complaints or just misunderstood. All though they avoid talking about it, they burn inside and want to express it as LOUD as they can. But they don’t… Until, they realize how much the pain is ruling their lives. Then they make different choices. They cannot act as if it doesn’t exist, so they act accepting that part of them. I see them changing their view on things, seeing the suffering more as a quest to find themselves again. They switch a bit the ultimate goal. It becomes more about fulfilment than pain. They share their experiences through different activities either in a group or a personal practice like art. They learn to live their lives differently. They learn to love themselves again, not in spite of the pain but regardless of it. Their journeys are long, hard and sinuous but at the same time beautiful and inspiring.

Unrelenting Pain and Suffering

Dayna Fesciuc

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

This Artwork clearly depicts the 24/7 pain, feeling of isolation, trapped inside experiences I have daily from CRPS, Fibromyalgia, Migraines and Depression.

Invisible Isolation

Aislinn L.

A Person with Lived Experience

“Invisible Isolation”, represents how I feel as a young woman living with many forms of chronic pain. At times, I feel trapped, like I cannot break free, as if an invisible force field is restricting me. I can see the world moving on around me, I am visible to others, and yet I am not truly seen. Physically and externally I appear as any other young woman, but on the inside, I suffer crippling and excruciating pain from a medical condition that is a mystery to most people. For individuals suffering from chronic pain, daily life is completely altered; we push ourselves to break free, but often feel trapped in a crowd of seclusion.

Death’s Embrace

Terry Wilde

A Person with Lived Experience

Death’s Embrace was painted by the late Lili wilde who lived with 3 rare disorders including full body CRPS a high level pain disorder. Lili was a strong advocate for herself and other patients around the world, but face to face social interaction was a challenge with her medical conditions. This painting depicts her experience of death constantly looking over her shoulder, her one constant companion. Like Lili, many patients with pain disorders and chronic conditions, face chalenges maintaining a social life. Death was a reality that Lili had to face, much sooner them she should due to her conditions and healthcare harm.

Together

Doriana Taccardi

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

Before starting my career as a researcher in Chronic Pain, I worked as a clinical assistant. One of the people I came in contact with was a young woman in her 20s, she had a Traumatic Brain Injury that resulted in chronic pain. She was very energetic and curious, but her pain often too intense to allow her to do what she wanted to do. Her family did not really understand her condition. She felt lonely and misunderstood. She had sorrow in her eyes, but was able to hide it with a smile. I introduced her to a Brain Injury charity, she met virtually with them, they were sharing their stories every week. When her pain was too intense, she wanted to join the weekly meeting with her camera off to listen to their stories anyway. This poem and artwork is about her and what she taught me about living with chronic pain, about the importance of surrounding yourself with people who can understand your sorrow, or maybe can't completely understand but are able to be there for you. Sometimes you don't need to do something or change something, you just need to be there for someone.

Comfort/Discomfort

Suha Sagheer

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

Someone close to me once described living with chronic pain as being an isolating and lonely experience. Yet, the social and familial support they received on a day-to-day basis helped them to get through the day. Here, I used abstract lines and contrasting colours to depict the comfort from social support in the midst of experiencing the discomfort of living with pain.

Painful Isolation: The Loneliness of Chronic Pain and its Impact on Social Participation

Tharini Manikandan

A Person with Lived Experience

My aim with this artwork is to depict the emotional terrain of suffering and disconnection. The central figure, experiencing physical unease and seclusion, stands apart from the others. Through the use of color, I have tried to capture the various emotional dimensions of pain and its impact on an individual's social interactions.

Kept Hidden

Tarannum Rahnuma

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

My piece aims to capture the lived experiences of those with chronic pain, which affects approximately 1 in 5 Canadians. The daily struggle of managing chronic pain can make even the simplest tasks challenging, particularly in social situations where individuals may feel pressured to conceal their symptoms to avoid being stigmatized or perceived as a burden. My painting captures the emotional and physical toll of masking pain in social settings, particularly during happy occasions such as celebrations. Through "Kept Hidden", I hope to foster greater empathy and understanding of the experiences of those living with chronic pain. I believe that by raising awareness and encouraging dialogue, we can create a more supportive and inclusive society that recognizes the challenges faced by those with pain.

Waves of Grief

Newton Martin

A Person with Lived Experience

Pain hinders our ability to pay attention to the things that matter. When I feel pain I'm often anxious, desperately looking for a place to escape or withdraw. On other days I am bold and motivated to carry on despite the fatigue and stress. It is easy to see the bigger picture when experiencing acute pain and stressors, because we know it will go away soon. However, many people in the world today are in pain over-and-over again. Each painful experience becomes a barrier for people to live a full and enjoyable life. This art piece manifests the uncertainty of long-term painful experiences. The waves of varying color signifies the emotional weight associated with our unsettling or anxious experiences. The sun adds hope to the picture because through the trashing and beating of the waves the sun never ceases to shine. When we take a step back and picture our lives from a different angle, the collage of our collective experiences becomes less of a mess and more of a masterpiece. In time, our experiences transform from being a barrier into being fuel for personal narrative and character.

Game of Endurance

Elnaz Alikarami

Trainees, Researchers, Clinicians

View the full comic here!

Game of Endurance, is a brief narration of my observations from my good friend who suffered from a facial chronic pain. Her pain lasted for 12 years, before she finally got the right treatment and this short comic is adapted by her experiences and her difficulties of living her everyday life with this challenging medical condition, from the time the pain started until after her recovery from a risky treatment. Her life, as many other people with chronic pain, had many ups and downs, which are not easy to be recognized.

Kept Hidden

Tarannum Rahnuma

Winner of our Pain Professional Category

Waves of Grief

Newton Martin

Winner of our Person with Lived Experience Category

Invisible Isolation

Aislinn L.

Winner of our Person with Lived Experience Category

Pain Strikes 

Eglee Gimon 

Trainee/research Category

Like a lightning bolt that comes from nowhere pain paralyzes you and breaks you inside and out. Shattered, you can barely stand in the midst of this thunderstorm; everything around you looks densely gloomy... it is hard to see a way out.

There Are Choices 

Hafsah Syed 

Trainee/research Category

This photograph was received as part of my study, supported by the University of Calgary, Mitacs Research Training Award, and the Mabbott Leadership Award. Participants with chronic pain were invited to take digital photographs to represent their lived experiences, through a methodology called photo-elicitation. We explored the relationship between chronic pain and animal companionship. A human-animal bond may shape the experience of living with chronic pain; one participant— with 10 years of chronic pain— shared this photograph and elaborates: "He never leaves my side. He's saved my life, in more ways than one. There are choices to live or die. Whether to take your life or not— there's always a choice— but my dog is my choice to stay here. To me, the medications are a way out of the pain— I've got so many lying around the house, it's very easy to take them all— but he's always here for me. [My psychologist] asked me 'what keeps you here?' It's my dog, 100% of the time. He doesn't know— he would just never see me again, and that would be the worse thing ever— that keeps me from doing anything. There are choices and, hopefully, always the right one."

The Colors of the Pain Experience 

Louise Castillo 

Trainee/research Category

Chronic pain colors many aspects of one’s life. It shades one’s work, relationships, and self-care, leading to suffering and for some, loss of employment, physical mobility, and identity. Living with pain is emotionally stressful; some may feel trapped by their own thoughts and/or immersed in a cycle of avoidant behaviors with an aim to reduce their pain. Pain can limit a life previously known across the lifespan—an experience that can be devastatingly isolating. Yet, in the midst of that, many live through the daily peaks and pitfalls of the totality of the pain experience–experiencing a host of other emotions colored by strength and resilience in the face of adversity.

Sucked in by Pain: Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel. 

Mathieu Piché 

Trainee/research Category

Pain gives the impression of imminent death, like a crooked tree that lost all its leaves. At the border of madness, the light at the end of the tunnel is there, but unreachable. Leaf by leaf, branch by branch, you break apart, stuck in an inner subspace, dissociated from reality.

Displacement 

Chloe Fleisher 

People with Lived Experience Category

I am a 13-year girl who has lived with chronic pain for more than 5 years. I drew this image to express how I sometimes feel when I'm in pain -like I am drowning or submerged. The pain consumes my whole body. I am helpless and there is nothing I can do to stop the suffering or to help myself. Note: THe art work was submitted by the parent of a child with chronic pain and medical complexity. The author of the art submission is her 13 year old daughter Chloe Fleisher

Chronic Invisibility 

Patricia Simmons 

People with Lived Experience Category

Chakras correspond to the energy centres located in the body that affect our emotional and physical wellbeing. Balance and openness are key. The major chakras are often represented by seven colours ordered vertically. In Reiki, a pendulum held over a chakra moves clockwise to indicate that it’s open, counterclockwise to indicate closed, and in a straight line to indicate half-open/closed. My chakra colours are disordered, and my circular and linear brushstrokes mimic the movements of the pendulum. I gestured towards a dysregulated body and the constant struggle to establish balance. The globe/eyeball suggests that each person is a world unto themselves, an internal mystery that cannot readily be apprehended or measured. So much is going on behind the eyes, in the body, in the mind. The shadow of my hand turned upward is at once a site of pain and a gesture of reaching for help. The seven colors associated with the major chakras correspond to the seven colors of visible light. While they function almost metaphorically in the chakra system to render visible the light within, invisible energy, I have used the chakra system and its colors to render visible another kind of invisibility—the subjective experience of pain.

Turning to Stone 

Terry Wilde 

People with Lived Experience Category

My late wife Lili Painted this in 2003 after full body Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) set in, triggered by a car accident in 1999. She had full-bodied Pain except in the left side of her face. At this point in her life she had no tolerated pain medications due to severe allergies. Suicide or Medically Assisted Death was a constant battle. This Image depicts the struggle with pain and loss of ability, while showing the life in the left side of her face, the one place she could escape to. After many years of struggle and Healthcare Harm, she died in 2019 with a strong will to live.

Entangled: Persistent Pain and Mental Health 

Sandra Woods 

People with Lived Experience Category

Chronic pain affects more women than men. We don’t know why, because past research has mostly involved men. Added to that historic unfairness, women’s pain has often been ignored or even disbelieved by doctors and nurses. So many women in pain end up feeling traumatized, simply from trying to get medical help with their pain. Constant pain can interfere with your sleep, concentration and focus, ability to plan your daily tasks – and sometimes your ability to look after yourself and your loved ones. You might have to cut back on your work hours, or to stop working altogether. These are just a few of the impacts of chronic pain on a person’s life. Pain can lead to financial problems, unstable housing, child custody issues, and more. It’s no wonder that many people who live with pain also have mental health problems. This painting is meant to show the different mental health burdens caused by chronic pain… The pain itself, always there, and worries about the future: Will the pain ever end? What will be the impact of pain on your family, finances, friendships, job, or studies? How can you explain your pain to others, if they can’t even see it?

Lost and Found

Jonie Moffitt-Falbo 

People with Lived Experience Category

Personal acrylic paintings of my journey through mental and physical pain. Pain creates a darkness. It chains the body, and entraps the mind. My existence is dissolving, my sense of self is all but gone. Pain physically and mentally have become my jail cell. After pain management, the chains are broken, my mind begins to sense freedom and feel the light. The jail has cracked open. The pain is still there but it no longer rules me. My mind is clearer, my soul is at peace. Finally, I know I will be okay.

Constellations of Chronic Pain and Depression Research: A Network Visualisation 

Abhimanyu Sud 

Trainee/research Category

People living with chronic pain often experience depression, but understanding and treating these two conditions together can be very difficult.To get a better idea of which treatments might improve depression for people with chronic pain, systematic reviews have been conducted to compile results from multiple clinical trials. These reviews usually focus on one type of chronic pain or a certain kind of treatment. An umbrella review then compiles the results from multiple systematic reviews, to get the broadest possible picture. An umbrella review can tell us what kinds of treatments have been studied for the effects on depression, and for what kinds of chronic pain conditions. This network visualization shows a constellation of 83 systematic reviews (grey dots), and the 459 clinical trials that they synthesise (blue dots when included by one systematic review; green dots when included by more than one). Looking at the network of systematic reviews and clinical trials, we identified groups based on types of treatments (labels and outlines) and kinds of chronic pain conditions (coloured clouds). This network visualization provides a big picture view of research on depression and chronic pain, and the gaps that are worth investigating in future studies and reviews.

Dans Vraie Vie / In Real Life  

Justine Benoit-Piau 

Trainee/research Category

After a touching meeting with a mother who lost one of her daughters to suicide, the choreographers were inspired by the images that emerged from her during this discussion. Through chaos and black holes, through a parallel life, the effect of grief on mental health is the main source of inspiration for the latter portion of this project. In introduction to this dance, a presentation by Pr Pascal Tétreault was done on the personal experience of pain and the factors that influence it, which can be biological, psychological or social. He also explains how chronic pain can have a deleterious effect on mental health. Psychological pain, as one would experience when losing a loved one in a traumatic way, can activate similar brain parts as the ones that would be activated by physical pain. The use of dancers in this creation enabled the researcher to convey his words in movement, more efficiently, than with a simple PowerPoint presentation. Each movement was specifically choreographed to portray the words of Pr Tétreault and the words of the mother who tragically lost her daughter. Presenter : Pascal Tétreault PhD Dancers : Christophe Benoit-Piau, Justine Benoit-Piau, Véronique Perreault, Élizabeth Tremblay, Léanne Boudreau.

Captured Flashes of Lived Experience in Pediatric Pain: Illuminating the Voices of Marginalized Youth 

Samantha Noyek  

Trainee/research Category

Pain experiences of youth with brain-based developmental disabilities are more likely to be overlooked and/or misinterpreted, especially when youth are unable to self-express their pain through speaking, writing (using paper and pencil), or typing (with a standard computer-keyboard). This video was developed through a Science Communication Course at the University of Calgary, to relay research through media. The content presents pictures and video clips that provide insight about ongoing research being led by Dr. Samantha Noyek and a team of researchers, clinicians, families, and lived experience experts. Interview clips are woven throughout to highlight pain experiences of youth and families. The video came forth as an idea stemming from a systematic review we have conducted that maps the scope of self and observer-reported pain assessment measures of youth with brain-based developmental disabilities. Next steps of our research will provide pain assessment recommendations for this group of youth. Continued efforts will involve a World Café, bringing together diverse stakeholders to set research priorities in this area. This video was shared through social media outputs including Twitter and Facebook. The intended audience of the video includes families, researchers, and clinicians, highlighting the necessity of making this area a critical research focus

The Colors of the Pain Experience 

Louise Castillo 

Trainee/research Category

​Displacement

Chloe Fleisher 

People with Lived Experience Category

Turning to Stone 

Terry Wilde 

People with Lived Experience Category

Lady in Pain

Lizbeth Ayoub

Trainee/research Category

She is one of us; a woman exposed to the invasive nature of pain. More women than men suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain perseveres, overwhelms the body, mind and blurring one’s identity with oneself and society. Its dark web leaves one vulnerable, exposed, and subjected to its intensity. Yet, this lady stands tall, graceful in the face of adversity. Her golden head is a symbol of knowledge and future brain research for new treatments.

Pain Over Powers

Eglee Gimon

Trainee/research Category

Pain is a particularly unpleasant sensation, a way in which our body alerts us of physical threat or injury; its effects frequently go beyond physical and could significantly impact our core mental and psychosocial wellbeing. On the other hand, psychosocial and spiritual elements of our lives could magnify the expression of pain; total pain is the term coined by Dr. C Saunders used to describe such situations. The young lady in this picture confronted not only the reality of a recent pancreatic cancer diagnosis but the unfortunate complication of surgical treatment leaving a nonhealing fistula and its life-changing consequences (including indefinite dependency on total parenteral nutrition). She embodied total pain/extreme suffering and frequently commented on how she felt death was always peering over her shoulder; a black rose tattooed in her left forearm represented her hope for transcendent healing. The involvement of a compassionate, caring and cohesive multidisciplinary team (including multiple physician disciplines, nurses, dietitians, psychologists, social workers, occupational and physical therapists, spiritual care practitioners) was essential to optimally address her pain management. This illustrates the importance of a holistic approach to pain assessment and management.

Walking Through Stone: A Life with Chronic Pain. 

Richard Hovey

Trainee/research Category

Imagining (my) pain if one picture could sum-up my research about the life changing disruptive force of chronic pain this one comes close. Living with pain incarcerates the person weighed down by pain. A burden carried with them every second, minute of every day for life. My applied hermeneutic research delves deeply into the meaning of living with chronic pain and related suffering. Loss of jobs, physical mobility, concentration, personal relationships can often lead to a traumatic loss of identity, the briefcase representing the fading memory of self. Pain isolates people from society, friends and family with damaging repercussions. My research coupled with my own lived experiences of pain endeavours to understand the totality of the chronic pain experience and use this information to build more comprehensive opportunities for people living with pain such as help re-building positive identities and reduce social isolation. A metaphorical chipping away of stone. The picture was taken by Richard Hovey (2017) of the Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat Reykjavik, Iceland sculpted by Magnús Tómasson in 1994.

Depicting Orofacial Pain From Patients' Perspective

Sripriya Jayaraman

Patient Category

This is a picture of a patient in profound agony from chronic orofacial pain. One side is the physical aspect, where pain is variously described as electric shock like, stabbing, throbbing and sharp. On the other side is the psychological aspects that fuel pain - trauma, PTSD, incarceration, natural disasters and so on. This debilitating pain is experienced even though it’s a wonderful day filled with warm sunshine, good food and loved ones. But patients are in such excruciating pain they cannot enjoy themselves.

Like a Buzzing Mosquito, Chronic Pain is Impossible to Ignore.

Sandra Woods

Patient Category

This abstract mosquito represents the ever-present burden of chronic pain. If you’ve ever tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in your room, you know how distracting and even distressing it can seem!Chronic pain is much worse, buzzing its way into your mind and intruding in your thoughts. Pain makes it hard to concentrate at school, at work, or even on fun activities. Chronic pain can also be menacing, because we expect our bodies to use pain to tell us that something is wrong. Appendicitis, kidney stones, labour pains – these kinds of pain signals are the body’s internal alarms, telling us to get medical help! In chronic pain though, the body’s pain alarm stays on – all the time – even after any injury has healed, or sometimes for no obvious reason. Not only is that mosquito buzzing around you all the time, imagine feeling that it is constantly biting you… when it isn’t. Chronic pain is much worse than a mosquito bite, of course, but I’m sure you get the idea! Even though we’d like to swat pain away, like a mosquito, much more research is needed to make that possible. In the meantime, many people live with constant and long-term pain. Like a menacing mosquito, hovering constantly over your head for months, years, or even decades

Lady in Pain

Lizbeth Ayoub

Trainee/research Category

Like a Buzzing Mosquito, Chronic Pain is Impossible to Ignore.

Sandra Woods

People with Lived Experience of Persistent Pain Category

2023 Art Awards

Our theme was “Pain and Social Life”.

2022 Art Awards

Our theme was “Pain and Mental Health”.

2021 Art Awards

Our theme was “Imagining Pain”.

2024 Art Awards

Our theme was “Shared Horizons”.

This is EPIC: simulation Education regarding Pain to Improve Care

Monakshi Sawhney

Simulation education, using standardized patient actors is a unique way to provide pain management education in health care settings to practicing clinicians. It is an opportunity to practice assessment skills and critical thinking in a safe environment that mimics the patient care setting. Our team implemented this concept at a hospital in Canada with a focus on researching the outcomes of a simulation intervention for nurses who care for patients receiving epidural analgesia for pain management after surgery. This photograph depicts the real to life patient care environment that was created for this study.

A Million Miles

Ilsa Sejean

Poem living with chronic pain

Broken Spine Tacks

Brenda Lau

AI Submission - It is a truest representation of one of my patients' description of the full presentation including TMJ, neck pain and occipital headaches with neuropathic pain post MVA.

Creating Chronic Pain Action and Collaborations through Intersectionality and Interactions

Sandra Woods

The denim-style background of this piece signals the inclusion of all people, and is meant to evoke the interwoven nature of cloth; how interweaving separate threads can create a strong and resilient fabric. In much the same way, concrete actions to improve clinical care, research, and training in the areas of pain and chronic pain are strongest when different perspectives are woven into decision-making.Starting from the bottom left, the six interconnected lines in this painting represent Policymakers, People living with pain (also called Patients here), Caregivers, Trainees, Researchers, and Clinicians.Policymakers cross the scene diagonally at a high level, clearly affecting all other sectors, with a partially blurred line to show that their roles in decision-making aren’t always obvious.The next line represents People living with pain, with a much lower level of influence. This line is mostly blurred, as the roles of Patients in decision-making and policy-making are seldom clear. Caregivers are next, blurred for the same reasons as for the People they care for, also with a generally low level of influence in decision- and policy-making.At the fourth line we find Trainees, with more opportunities for interactions with Clinicians, Researchers, and even Policymakers, but less direct contact with Patients and Caregivers.The next two lines represent Clinicians and Researchers, with increasing influence in specific situations, and perhaps the greatest opportunity to influence Policymakers.

Bearing the Weight Together

Tharini Manikandan

In a world where the weight of chronic pain can sometimes feel unbearable, you can find beauty in the company, support and love. In my drawing titled "Bearing the Weight Together," the essence of empathy, support, and collective action amidst the struggle of chronic pain is captured. At the forefront of theis picture, there is a figure, burdened by the weight of an immense load. Their posture reflects the strain of carrying this heavy burden, while their expression conveys the depth of their struggle. Yet, surrounding them are figures bathed in warmth and light, their helping hands reaching out in a gesture of compassionate assistance. Each helping hand adds a burst of colour and vitality to the scene, resembling the transformative power of empathy and community. The interplay of light and shadow highlights the contrasting aspects of human existence: the somber depths of pain and adversity as opposed to the illuminating warmth of empathy and companionship. The burden is depicted with attention to detail, allowing viewers to feel its texture and weight, while the people in the artwork demonstrate that they're determined and strong even when things are tough. Through subtle symbolism and storytelling, "Bearing the Weight Together" invites viewers to contemplate the complexities of chronic pain and the importance of community in navigating life's challenges. It speaks to the universal human experience of struggle and resilience, reminding us that even in our darkest hours, we are never truly alone. While pain may be an inevitable part of the human condition, so too is the capacity for compassion and collective healing. In a world where the weight of chronic pain can sometimes feel unbearable, "Bearing the Weight Together" offers a glimpse of the beauty that emerges when we come together to lighten each other's burdens and forge shared horizons of hope and healing.

Never Give Up Hope

Mael Gagnon Mailhot

The painting was done after I lost the ability to do everything I loved due to chronic pain. It was the first thing I created once I started to learn how to live with chronic pain.

Beyond Words

Brent Parno

Throughout the last 5 years plus of dealing with many health issues, from as simple as kidney stones, migraines, constant headaches, tinnitus, to IBS, to Gilliam Barre Syndrome, constant neuropathy ,Castlemans Disease, Lung Cancer, hyperparathyroidism, and FND, chronic pain is at the forefront.I hope my painting “ Beyond Words” has the power to inspire those in the health care community to truly get a small sense/feeling of what chronic pain feels like and go beyond awareness to action to help others like me find some relief/reprieve from the everyday day struggle of pain.

Many Hands Make Light Work

Samantha Kelly

This piece speaks to the hope for more team-based care in our health care system. In my journey with chronic pain, I have been carved into pieces by every medical and health professional I sought care from, particularly in those systems that limit your visit to a single inquiry for the allotted minutes of care.Having to choose which parts of me got attention and which had to wait created this constant tug of war in my mind, forcing me to have to decide which parts felt the worst and deserved attention. When in reality, every piece of me needed to be assessed. And the most important part, the one that was never inquired about, but that required the most attention of all, was my mind.Since finally acknowledging all of the pieces of me and advocating for whole-self care, I feel hope once more that I may find relief, or at least, acceptance, of a life with pain. The many hands in this piece are all of the practitioners from physical therapists, medical doctors, holistic healers, to trauma counsellors that have helped in my efforts to put the pieces of me back together.I intentionally kept the piece as a black and white sketch to illustrate the simplicity of the concept of team-based care. There are some parts that will be simple to solve once the right hands and minds come together, and others that will require more investigations and care, but having the right hands involved and removing the barriers to accessing those hands is the action that will help us to move forward.

Embrace: Maybe not a Cure, but Definitely Help

Veronica Dudarev

Persistent pain is a lot of things, and what is often overlooked in this boatload is that persistent pain is isolating. It limits, sometimes severely, one’s participation in life and social relationships. While persistent pain usually exposes one to a lot of medical attention, it also drives one’s friends away. Many people with chronic pain find that there are fewer people whom they can still call friends. For many people, persistent pain causes conflicts within the family and sometimes leads to a divorce. Indeed, it is challenging to be in a relationship with a person with chronic pain. Why it is so is a good question, and maybe a complex issue that involves both our natural desire to form relationships with successful people, our tendency to avoid frustrations (and pain is very frustrating in oneself and others), and probably a bit of empathy too. It is painful to look at someone in pain, and research shows that seeing someone in pain activates the same network in the brain that is involved in experiencing pain. Whatever the forces are, the result is that loneliness is a huge issue for people with persistent pain.And it exacerbates pain. It likely does, research suggests. To be more precise, presence and support of other people alleviates pain. This is why I gave this ink painting this title: Embrace, maybe not a cure, but definitely help. Being kind and patient with people is not such a bad idea in general, and we humans may need reminders about that all the time (myself included). For people with persistent pain this is even more true. There is a lot of frustration in and around them, a lot of pain, which is unpleasant inside and outside. Yet one simple way to help is to simply be there.

Pain and Professional Identity Horizons

Irina Kudrina

It depicts a middle-aged female profile of a medical professional living with a chronic pain condition. The image reflects multiple dilemmas and responsibilities closely intertwined with personal challenges of being an “atypical” pain clinician-scientist from an ethnic minority background. The “atypical” professional background continues representing a serious obstacle for many female academic physicians, but most of all for the family medicine specialists, to thrive in the pain field. This precious source of knowledge and experience for the most part remains untapped. The art is an opportunity to draw attention to the continuous effort of many female scientists, including from primary care, to promote their personal and professional knowledge to nurture broader conversations, cease important opportunities for dialogue and share their discoveries and understanding of the complexities of chronic pain. Together, we are better equipped to offer innovative and person-focused solutions to address chronic pain management at all levels, from an individual and community to the equity-seeking groups and even medical professionals living and working with chronic pain.

Planting Seeds in the Wind

Ezinne Ekediegwu

Within this evocative artwork lies a profound narrative that encapsulates the enduring struggle of a patient suffering from endometriosis, whose existence is characterized by persistent pain and weakness. Through her poignant portrayal, the artist conveys the individual's unwavering commitment to raising awareness and fostering understanding of this debilitating disease within her challenging societal context.The central figure, adorned in traditional Nigerian attire, serves as a poignant representation of the broader societal challenges faced by individuals grappling with endometriosis in Nigeria. The deep crimson hue of her garments symbolizes the profound suffering endured and perpetuated by the disease. With a hand firmly clasped to her abdomen, the locus of her anguish, she endeavours to scatter seeds into the wind. These seeds serve as potent symbols of her tireless efforts to sow awareness and enlightenment regarding her condition. Yet, the wind itself serves as a metaphor for the societal currents that buffet her efforts, for the prevailing ignorance and indifference that shroud endometriosis within her community.Indeed, statistics reveal a staggering reality: one in ten women are afflicted by endometriosis, yet awareness remains alarmingly scarce. In Nigeria, the dearth of specialized medical practitioners exacerbates the plight, with no more than two Endometriosis specialists navigating the complex terrain of this condition. Globally, the paucity of knowledge and the absence of a definitive cure cast a shadow over the lives of countless individuals.The tragic narrative continues with accounts of medical practitioners dismissing patients' symptoms as imaginary, prescribing ineffective treatments, and even subjecting sufferers to ridicule and mockery. Consequently, delayed diagnoses and preventable tragedies ensue, perpetuating a cycle of suffering and despair.Yet, amidst the darkness, a beacon of hope emerges. Through her resolute advocacy and unwavering determination, the protagonist endeavours to illuminate the shadows shrouding endometriosis. Her indomitable spirit serves as a rallying cry, compelling society to confront its collective ignorance and apathy. Thus, through her courageous crusade, she endeavours to sow the seeds of awareness and understanding, nurturing a brighter future for generations to come.

Path to the Zombie's Studio

Reilly Fitzgerald

It is not noticeable from the image, but it has been painted on a canvas stretched on a repurposed and twisted frame, which I normally would re-stretch or discard; this is to symbolise the hidden ailment of chronic pain. Inspired by an actual scene in my life, there are many figurative elements. This is my shed/studio where I have lived and created for more than a decade to remove myself and the experience of my pain from my family, so they do not have to share and endure my suffering.I painted a winter scene because, like winter, overbearing chronic pain is a form of death, where most previous aspects of living that were a part of one’s personality and individuality are taken away; People suffering chronic pain essentially become the living dead. I painted a hint of this zombie image in the studio window.The path through the snow symbolises the difficulty of making one’s way through the impeding snow-covered landscape of a life with pain. In reference to the theme of “Shared Horizons” the painting has a partially obscured horizon, blocked by trees and branches, revealing that although we share a view of the same horizon, one’s perspective can make that threshold unclear and obstructed. The colours are almost monochromatic with shadows covering most of the landscape, showing the absence of variation, colour, and vitality in a life consumed with constant suffering; however there is a luminosity and occasional swath of bright yellow symbolizing hope on the horizon and reflected in the landscape. In order to survive and even be successful while living with pain one has to focus on the few positives, such as my personal ability to paint and create so that I have a therapeutic release, a purpose, and a contribution to society.

Stressors and Saviours

Lisa Kimberly Glickman

"Stressors and Saviours" is a symbolic portrayal of the intricate dance between anguish and solace, manifesting in a surrealistic image that mirrors the artist's inner turmoil and resilience. The canvas is a tapestry of contrasting elements. On the left, the stressors emerge, looming ominously like dark clouds on the horizon. A spectral image of financial burdens casts a shadow, its tendrils reaching out like gnarled roots, ensnaring the mind in worry. Nearby, a swarm of carpenter ants and earwigs scuttle in chaotic patterns, representing the relentless intrusion of anxieties real and imagined, their presence magnified by the fear of impending collapse. Flames lick at the edges, a visual manifestation of the ever-present dread of house fires, their flickering tongues threatening to consume all in their path. Amidst this turmoil, the artist's twin daughters are depicted by their vulnerable state as they struggle with Celiac and Crohn's diseases. The artist’s shoulders bleed: this is the source, coming through her nerves in the back: acute brachial neuritis. Contrasting this, the saviours emerge as beacons of hope. Things that bring the artist joy: animals, nature, children, reading, art-making. Offering solace. Lotus flowers represent the possibility of re-birth. Through "Stressors and Saviours," the artist invites viewers to embark on a journey of introspection, navigating the turbulent seas of adversity while clinging steadfastly to the life rafts of joy and resilience. It is a poignant reminder that amidst life's storms, there is always beauty to be found, and strength to be drawn from the depths of the human spirit.

Long Horizons

Calah Myhre

This piece draws inspiration from Salvador Dali’s work The Elephants, where the march of time is depicted by long legged creatures, distorted and stretched by experience. In Long Horizons, the intertwined and elongated humans represent those with chronic pain, finding strength and resilience in community, beneath a cracked sunset.

Blurred Perceptions

Bianca Matthews

The awareness to action gap: a catalyst for broken promises, a blurry future, and misty realities. Otherwise known as the evidence to practice gap, this picture embodies the essence of the overproduction of pain research and a lack of the utilization of the produced evidence to create tangible solutions. The blurred horizon embodies the feeling of uncertainty in the future and uncertainty on whether or not hope is possible. The picture is taken on a Fujifilm F10 (a vintage digital camera) to simulate the fact that we are still using old pain solutions to treat new pain realities. And with that, we ignore the nuance, the diversity, and individuality in each person’s pain stories. Similar to how this photo’s graininess leads to the viewer to miss out on the intricate details of the water, beach, or horizon. The man looking at the horizon, slightly off center, is meant to embody the patients’ feeling of not having their voices uplifted and centered in our research. Without taking heed of their concerns of the lack of pain research translation, they are left gazing into blurry futures. Thus this photo highlights the importance of ensuring we are not just raising awareness, but putting our words into action to mitigate blurry pain futures.

Sharing in a Cup of Tea

Yvonne Brandelli and Nicole MacKenzie

Healing hurt begins with comfort and conversation, much like sharing in a cup of tea. As easily as we can share a cup of tea, we can share knowledge to impact the lives of children living with pain and their families. Each piece of this tea set embodies the knowledge and strength of those around the table. The teapot represents knowledge holders - with waves symbolizing the knowledge that sustains and rejuvenates diverse life forms, and the spouted vessel reflecting the flow of water to those in need. The cups represent families, designed with sprouts to symbolize different ages and stages of life. Despite this difference, both continue to benefit from the nourishment provided by water. Pediatric pain can take a physical and mental toll on families, as represented by the cracks in one of the cups. These cracks, however, have been repaired with the knowledge and support of those around the table. The repair not only allows for resumed function; it also adds an element of fortitude and growth - the epitome of resilience. The pieces on their own are not functional – the teapot with nowhere to pour tea and the cups with nothing to fill them. These pieces are best when together, just as clinicians, researchers, and families are most effective when they work together to generate and share knowledge about pain. We are most effective when we sit together – over a cup of tea.

City of Hidden Stories

Yu Tong Huang

My piece aims to visually portray multiple facets of the modern society for people living with chronic pain, who make up about 1/5th of the Canadian population. While chronic pain, and its resulting functional, social, and psychological burdens, weigh heavily on every aspect, every second, of their daily lives, it is often difficult to discern, when strolling in the city, those suffering from it. This is amplified by the isolation and facade many adopt to avoid judgement for being "dramatic" or "drug-seeking". The red hues represent the people living various chronic pain conditions, hidden within the crowd. This piece makes an attempt to represent certain groups, such as women, veterans, and elderly people, that are disproportionately affected by chronic pain conditions. Only with collective, multifaceted progress in areas such as education. stigma. healthcare, and research can our society hope to improve their quality of life and walk toward a brighter horizon.

Storm-Trapped Dreams

Nashmil Ehsaei

Hi, I'm Nashmil, and I have a story shrouded in darkness. Once, I thrived as a successful graphic designer, with a multitude of advertising clients and orders. I reveled in the art of playing with colors, shapes, typography, and layout... until an unforeseen tempest struck. In an instant, my radiant world was engulfed in darkness, plagued by double vision and relentless dizziness. The vibrant hues I once cherished had faded away. A diagnosis followed, revealing a rare autoimmune disease affecting my eyelid, casting a shadow over my entire existence. The only thing I could hold onto was my smile... I hoped it was fleeting. Even the longest night will end, and the sun will rise. So I smile.

Learning About Pain

Maria Zamfir

Learning About PainThis work shows unique and approachable neuron characters both experiencing and investigating pain pathways. This is the cover art for a book that we created to explain Touch & Pain to children and the general public. The illustrations in the book (not yet submitted), are also created specifically to share knowledge of touch, pain and pain relief.

A Dream, Weightless

Soula Mantalvanos

Identity intrigues me. I choose to explore ideas of identity and self-perception. Together they represent the interconnectedness of culture, heritage and person; together, they form a complex tapestry of life experiences - my life experiences - one of which is living with chronic pain.The subject I am most familiar with is me.This self-portrait embodies all this while paying homage to the ’still life’ - a genre that inspires and propels my work.

The Agony of Burning Pain

Stefano Foglia

This painting is painted in oils on a linen canvas. It depicts a silhouette of a woman hunched over with her hand on her face in agony of the burning pain she is feeling represented by the flames coming off of her.

In the Silence, I Still Hear your Voice

Ella Crompton

Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened that night, if I called for you and you didn’t answer.If sleep had kept you under its weight and my voice didn’t slip through the cracks.If the tears that cascaded down my face didn’t worry you, if my words didn’t frighten you.I wonder what I would’ve done.But I also wonder what it was like for you.For you to hear my voice slip through the cracks, breaking with every word.For you to see my tears as they poured down my cheeks.I wonder how scared you felt.What I never wonder though, is why, when I sit in silence, I hear your voice.When I speak into nothingness, with no response, your voice echoes around my head.I never wonder, I never will, even when I thought I lost everything; I never lost you.

Information and submission guidelines for our next Art Award will open late 2024.

The Canadian Pain Society Art Awards were created to engage a broad audience and contribute to knowledge mobilization and develop new tools for teaching and communicating about pain and its impact on social life.  With a new theme each year, we showcase the variety of artwork presented by clinicians, scientists, educators, artists, and people living with pain.

Celebrating artists who have shared their work.

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