Arts therapies for chronic pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Considering that arts therapies are used in a diverse range of types, for different age and gender groups, and settings (individual, family, group, society), and the fact that chronic pain is a multidimensional disease with physical, mental, and societal aspects, this master project is relevant for students with interests in mental health work, social work, and family therapy.

Background and purpose:

Chronic pain is a prevalent, complex, and distressing health problem that affects 20% of the population and is ranked among the top 10 causes of disability. Chronic pain not only influences the patient’s daily personal and professional activities and quality of life, but also the family and social circle. Lack of productivity and sick leave due to chronic pain is common and result in excessive economic burden. Chronic pain is often comorbid with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, draining health care resources.

Treatment of chronic pain is challenging and remains an unmet medical need. This has been partly explained by a lack of understanding of chronic pain mechanisms and the fact that it is influenced by numerous factors, such as biological, psychological, and societal factors. Current treatments for chronic pain include strategies using pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches. A trend of growing interest is seen towards the use of latter methods, including art therapies that can deliver individually, in a group format, together with family, in private or public.

Several types of arts therapies exist, for example, visual art therapy, dance-movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, and bibliotherapy. The literature presents the effects of arts therapies in the improvement of physical, psychosocial, and societal aspects of chronic pain. However, some studies fail to present beneficial effects. Controversies may stem from different methods applied for investigation (qualitative, quantitative), type of intervention (active, passive), study population (children, adults, elderly), and specific pain conditions (dominant in females or males). In addition, underlying mechanisms for effect or lack of effect remain poorly understood.

Some studies have only included patients, and families, while others have taken into account the role of therapists and researchers’ perspectives. Our group is interested in initiating new research in arts therapies for chronic pain. However, to justify and design proper evidence-based research, the first step is to gain an existing overview. Therefore, the purpose of this master project is to perform a systematic review, followed by a meta-analysis to be published later.


Students who join this project will attain a deep methodological insight. To fulfill the aim of this master project these steps are followed: 1) a study protocol will be formulated to guide the execution of the systematic review and meta-analysis. The protocol will be registered at PROSPERO. 2) the Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines will be used to conduct the systematic review. 3) Data extraction will be performed and summary tables of the primary and secondary outcomes will be presented. A meta-analysis will be completed and results will be discussed. Person and sensitive data will not be used at any stage of data collection, analysis, or presentation process, hence, this study does not require ethical approval.

Maximum number of students: 2

Contact information: Parisa Gazerani, Pharm D, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Life Sciences and Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Oslo Metropolitan University and

Please also note the project team: Kristin Benedicte Svendsen, Kåre Rønn Richardsen, Mimmu Rankanen, Hans Lund, Parisa Gazerani.

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