Can art therapy alleviate the pain of a migraine attack?

There are hundreds of different types of therapy. A more obscure method - art therapy - is just one example believed to help manage migraine.
child painting sunrise with watercolor

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There are hundreds of different types of therapy. Some are really well-known. Others are obscure and rarely practised. Some therapeutic techniques are scientifically proven to help treat diagnosed medical conditions. Others, meanwhile, are under-researched and potentially ineffective.

The benefit of having so many different treatments to choose from is that you can try out lots of different methods and find out what works best for you!

Perhaps you are an avid drawer, spending your free time sketching landscapes, perfecting self-portraits, or conjuring up unique abstract masterpieces. Perhaps you are less preoccupied with painting and rarely stretch beyond scribbling the occasional square or circle when you find yourself a bit bored. Whichever category you fit into, there may be an unexpected type of therapy to help alleviate your migraine symptoms – art therapy.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy which uses art to help alleviate the symptoms of a migraine attack. It is a type of therapy open to everyone. You don’t have to be the next Van Gogh for art therapy to be an option! This is because it is not about producing outstanding paintings. Rather, art therapy encourages you to reflect upon and express your emotions. The creative process of painting and drawing helps you to do just this.

How is art therapy useful when it comes to a migraine attack?

Proponents of art therapy stress the importance of a perceived connection between art and pain. Art therapy encourages you to express yourself through creative activities – this helps to reduce the perception of pain.

As a result, much like breathing exercises and yoga, art therapy helps you to take control of your mood. It may act as a distraction, shifting your attention from the pain of a migraine attack to the artwork you are creating.

In the midst of a migraine attack, you may feel out of control – that your pain defines you. Art therapy offers a solution to this, helping you to reassert control over your body and your feelings, all whilst enabling you gain a deeper understanding of the condition and how it affects you.

Does it actually work?

As with all treatments, are therapy is far from perfect. Not everyone will feel its benefits. That being said, art therapy can certainly have a positive impact on individuals’ lives. It has been proven, for example, to be able to reduce the perception of pain in those who practise it regularly. Painting, after all, is calming and peaceful. It is therefore likely to reduce stress – a well-known trigger of migraine attacks.

Art therapy may be a particularly useful treatment when it comes to children with migraine. Firstly, children can easily get stuck into the fun activity of painting. Moreover, it offers children another way of expressing themselves – particularly important for those who may have limited language capabilities.

Art therapy might not be for everyone. But by approaching it with an open mind, it just might make the migraine attack that little bit less painful. Want to give it a try? Our partners, CHYP (Creative Healing for Youth in Pain), offer a great variety of workshops and camps on creative techniques to cope with pain. Among those also art therapy.


Creative Healing for Youth in Pain (CHYP)

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