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By Karen Nikos-Rose on June 1, 2020

The virtual museum experience: Can it help reduce social isolation and chronic pain?

This blog post contributed by UC Davis Health

Can participating in virtual, online museum programs help people with chronic pain feel more socially connected? Could those social connections provide some relief from the burden of that pain?

UC Davis Health and the Crocker Art Museum are collaborating on chronic pain research using online museum programs during the pandemic.

You can help UC Davis Health and Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum find out.

Since 2014, the health system and the Crocker have collaborated on research that points toward benefits of museum programming for people with chronic pain. However, with the museum temporarily closed due to COVID-19, the research was suspended. Fortunately, now the museum programs are offered online, at no cost – and they need participants. 

Chronic pain is complex. It affects the body, the mind and social interactions. Over 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain  ̶  more than those with heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined.

Previous studies have shown that social disconnection can make pain feel more intense, while social connections can help decrease the intensity. But researchers are still learning how to translate those findings into patient care.

A UC Davis Health team led by Ian Koebner, director of Integrative Pain Management and an assistant professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at UC Davis School of Medicine, hopes to learn if two new virtual museum programs at the Crocker — Art Rx and Artful Meditation — can decrease the social disconnection and the unpleasantness of chronic pain. And they are looking for volunteers.

Research participants will be randomly assigned to one of four groups:

  1. A control group that will continue its current care.
  2. A virtual museum tour group – “Art RX”
  3. A group that takes part in a virtual meditation program from the museum – “Artful Meditation”
  4. A group that goes through both the virtual Art Rx and the Artful Meditation programs

Participants will be asked to take a 20-minutes survey about their experiences. They will be surveyed before their program, right after, then three-months later.

Researchers may also ask participants questions about their experiences in the study. The research team will want to know the impact the experience may have had on a participant’s health and on their relationships with others. These interviews will take an hour or less.

Who can participate (people who fit these criteria):

  1. 18 years of age or older
  2. English speaking
  3. Chronic pain lasting six months or longer
  4. Moderate pain or greater (4/10 or greater on a Numerical Rating Scale, range of 1 [no pain] - 10 [worst pain imaginable], in response to the question: "Over the past week, what was your average pain intensity?")
  5. Moderately lonely or greater (Score of 4 or greater on a three-item Loneliness Scale, range of 3 - 9)
  6. Have a Wi-Fi enabled device (e.g., desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet), and a Wi-Fi connection.

Who cannot participate? (Someone who fits at least one of these criteria)

  1. Participated in an Art Rx tour already
  2. Participated in an Artful Meditation program already
  3. Suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease
  4. Unable to complete surveys

How to enroll

To enroll in this study, CLICK HERE.

For more information

Visit our study page or contact Ruchi Rawal, project manager, at ucdhartrx@gmail.com or (916) 619-3383.

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