A New Prescription For Pain

We all know that museums are important for teaching people about different kinds of art and preserving beautiful things for the public to enjoy, but did you know that going to a museum is actually good for you?

Research shows that for people over age 50, a one-on-one interaction with art helps lessen chronic pain and keeps a person sharper mentally, even more than going to the movies. Why, you ask? Going to a museum is multifaceted. You must leave your home and travel to the facility. Once there, you interact with others and exercise to travel from gallery to gallery. While admiring artwork, you become absorbed in it and use your critical thinking skills to contemplate what the artist was trying to communicate. All of these elements combined engage the whole person—socially, physically and mentally—and are key to one’s overall wellbeing, especially as we age.

It’s no secret that one of the biggest issues with chronic pain is that it makes you focus on how uncomfortable you are and not much else. When you get lost in a painting or concentrate intently on a sculpture, pain can be lessened because you experience something known as “embodied cognition,” which is the ability to step outside your body and imagine yourself as part of the artwork. There have been studies that explore how the brain, when reacting to a beautiful painting for example, can affect a person’s nervous system in a positive way, which helps manage pain.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Two groundbreaking studies from 2018 published in The Journal of Pain by the American Pain Society and the The British Journal of Psychiatry cite the health benefits of museums, especially with regard to chronic pain and dementia. Furthermore, British dementia researcher Daisy Fancourt studied over 3,000 adults aged 50 and older over a 10-year period and tracked how often they visited museums. She found that those who visited museums every few months or more had a lower rate of dementia than those who visited less frequently. Turns out the engaging, enjoyable and socially interactive act of going to a museum really does have a positive influence on a person’s wellbeing. Who knows, in the future your doctor might prescribe a trip to the museum for your health instead of a new prescription! In the meantime, come by and visit us at the Appleton Museum of Art and enjoy the health benefits of art right away.

Learn more › Appleton Museum of Art › 4333 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala › appletonmuseum.org(352) 291-4455


A former professional archaeologist, Patricia Tomlinson joined the Appleton Museum of Art as Curator of Exhibitions in 2016 after having served as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum for eight years.

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