Creative Medicine for Pain Relief

One of my Colorful Manadalas

One of my Colorful Manadalas

I have discovered that some of the best medicine for pain relief is creativity!  There are so many benefits to engaging in Creative Therapy.  For me, the number one benefit is: distraction.  My mind becomes immersed in the activity at hand and before I know it I am no longer focused solely on my pain. It’s like the physical pain has transferred from my body to the page.  This technique is also extremely helpful in combating emotional and mental pain.  It can help one express the deep, painful feelings that can overwhelm without an outlet for release.  It can help one move towards healing.  Creative Therapy can help reduce stress, anxiety and tension.  I also find this approach deeply meditative; it can lead me into almost a trance state where my calm spirit is separated from my hurting body.  The pain becomes a distant entity.  It allows me to literally take a break from my pain. 

And the best thing is that you can do Creativity Therapy on your own or with a group, for no or little money, and at any time in almost any place (don’t know if I’d try it in the elevator, but you never know!).  If you are more comfortable learning techniques from someone else, there are certified Art Therapists and many cities offer Creative Wellness Centers with classes and open sessions.   Another option is to find a group of like-minded people on or to look into classes available at local churches, community centers or adult-ed classes at local high schools.

But, I want to take a time to explore all the options for doing Creative Therapy in your home.  Don’t get stuck up by saying, “but, I’m not an artist!”  This isn’t about creating “sellable art,” this is about free expression through creative outlets.  There is something for everyone and no one ever has to see your creation if you don’t want them to!  Here are some ideas to get you started…

  • Coloring Books!!… I find these extremely soothing.  My favorite are Mandala coloring books from Dover (found for <$5 on Amazon, etc.).  Mandalas have been used for centuries as meditation tools.  After mine are colored, I keep them to stare into when I am feeling stressed or in pain (sample above).

    "Sacred Place"  Collage

    “Sacred Place”

  • Collaging… rip up pictures in old magazines and glue them onto a larger sheet of craft paper.  I love to collage “vision boards” ofthings I hope to achieve in my future, of things that make me happy (sunsets, babies, waterfalls) or of placesI’d like to visit.  You can make “word boards,” random collages, or collages that form a larger picture (like my “Sacred Place” ex.)
  • Knitting or crocheting… there are even weaving circles (at craft stores) for beginners that create a finished scarf!
  • Cross-Stitch or Latch Hook… with so many ready-made designs to choose from.
  • My Tasty Gluten Free Fruit Tart

    My Tasty Gluten Free Fruit Tart

    Cooking or Baking… yes, this is a creative activity, too!  Make something just for the heck of it.  I find this option very Zen; I spend thoughtful, purposeful time creating a visually appealing dish only to have it devoured soon after. Talk about a lesson on impermanence!

  • Gardening… create a pretty combo pot for your deck, porch or sunny window.
  • “Scratch-Off Books”… you can find these at the craft store; there are images hidden beneath black that you scratch away with the provided tool to uncover scenes beneath.
  • Zen-Tangles!… an awesome, new take on doodling.  Look for books online or in the library to get you started. Once you pick up a few different patterns, all you need is a sharpie and a notepad to create interesting, engaging, repetitive pieces anywhere.
  • Card Making… make cards with any of the techniques above and then spend a little time writing a personal note to a friend, loved one, or even yourself!
  • Photography… a great way to get you out in nature and become mindful about your surroundings.
  • Simple Beading… string a pattern of beads on elastic or “memory wire” to create a meditation mala/bracelet (say a mantra for each bead as you “travel” around your wrist).
  • FiMo… PlayDough for adults!  Roll and shape into abstract or formed designs and then bake them.
  • Decoupage… buy a cheapy cardboard trinket box at the craft store and use ModPodge to paste on collage pictures. Coat with an extra layer of ModPodge to seal.
  • Origami… I love trying to reach my life long goal of a “1000 Cranes for Peace”

PHEW!!!! Now pick just one and indulge your creative self today!  Then let me know how it felt and if you have any other ideas to share!

Here’s another blogger’s take on Creativity and Emotional Expression :


19 thoughts on “Creative Medicine for Pain Relief

  1. This was an awesome entry!! 🙂 I love all of the different ideas. I’m currently working on crocheting pocket pillows (pillows with pockets on them). If its okay with you, can I reblog this post? These are some great insights worth sharing! 🙂

    • Of course! That’s the things I am discovering is the most uplifting about blogging= the give and take of thoughts and ideas; the give and take of energy and experiences shared! What a cute idea for a crochet project; can’t wait to see your creations 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on My Fibrotastic Life! and commented:
    I found this blog post that Tamara wrote to be very inspiring, so I wanted to share this with you–my blogworms ;). There are a lot of different ideas in order to apply creative therapy in order to alleviate pain. Enjoy! 🙂

  3. I’d love the try the zen tangles if my wrists/hands allow. I was a student of art and loved to use pencil as a medium – I really miss that.

    • I can completely relate; the “state” of my physical self rules what activities I can or cannot engage in on a day to day basis! I find doing things in small increments (I’ll even set a timer so I don’t “over-do!”) helps. For me, the meditative state my mind travels to during these creative activities eventually pushes me beyond the pain and works better than any Rx. I hope you can re-discover your inner artist, too 🙂 Sometimes, I find having music on is another way to develop a peaceful mind & body.

      • Lovely to hear from you. I really do hope that I can begin some scribblings/doodles or any kind of art again – thanks for the inspiration 😉

  4. First, this is my first visit to your page. I love it. The colors are wonderful and so peaceful. I’m a digital artist and textile artist. When I got FM, I could no longer do the textile art. But the computer art has saved me. Truly, getting lost in a painting is the only relief I know from pain when it overcomes me. Great article.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments on my site’s palette; I spent time developing a background I found soothing and I’m glad that, you, too felt “it!” And I applaud you for discovering creative ways to keep your artist self alive despite chronic illness. That was the true nature of this post… just because we have chronic pain doesn’t mean we have to stop the things that bring us happiness and peace; we just need to adjust our activities and our expectations! Keep on living, Kerry 🙂

    • Great suggestions! There are so many creative ways to nurture our serenity in the face of chronic conditions. I know I have to at times “push through the pain,” until I reach a place of peace “beyond the pain.” I, too, love to read and write. And I forgot to mention the pure joy of listening to music! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

    • Wonderful!! You are reminding of the joy I felt with my one year old nephew just the other day… I taped some paper on his highchair and gave him some chunky crayons; it was so marvelous to see him discover his own creative potential.

  5. I love it when I’m able to be creative. Condition been getting worse lately, so not able to do much lately, but looking forward to a day of creative activity, coming soon to a chronically fabulous person near you 😉 Thanks for sharing. Soft hugs, Jessie

    • Great Attitude 🙂
      I, too, just got through 4 very challenging days (weather change, perhaps?) but that just makes me appreciate the days I am able to create even more. I always keep lots of “options” on hand for when my body is able to participate in them. And I keep my finished projects around (on display) to warm my environment and lift my spirits on days that I cannot!
      **Gentle squeezes** Tam

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