The Effects of Digital Art Therapy on Outpatient Post-Surgical Cancer Pain

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Dailey, Christine
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Cancer pain is a complex experience of physiological and psychological symptoms. Despite the availability of modern practice guidelines, effective pharmacological interventions, and new technologies for drug administration, the management of acute pain in people with cancer continues to remain undertreated and undermanaged. The aim of this study was to explore the effect of digital art therapy as a post-surgical pain management tool for outpatients diagnosed with cancer; the physiological outcome measure was only one component. Qualitative descriptive measures were used to explore the variations and themes of pain as they were experienced and expressed by individuals diagnosed with cancer. Participants also received a 30-minute digital art making intervention that used quantitative measures for assessing pain. The five participants were interviewed individually and received a non-pharmacological, 30-minute art therapy pain management intervention utilizing a digital tablet and mandala drawing application or ‘app’ as the art media. Prior to and immediately following the art therapy intervention, participant pain level was measured using a standardized instrument: a combination form of the Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NPRS) and the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale. The results found evidence of pain reduction following the art therapy intervention and may help direct future research regarding the application of alternative pain management techniques.