Digital Pain Garden visualises suffering

Man touching floating pictures

Arthritis Research UK has teamed up with Teeside University and Animmersion to develop a Digital Pain Garden to offer long-term pain sufferers relief.

The initiative, developed by Professor of Rehabilitation at Teesside University Denis Martin and Animmersion, allows patients to understand the impact of persistent pain on their wellbeing.

The Pain Garden is based on answers to a patient questionnaire about their experiences. Martin said patients found this beneficial, giving them a more holistic view of their pain experience.

The professor and Teeside-based company Animmersion then decided to map responses using animation and graphic design to illustrate the nature of pain and how it changes, funded by Arthritis Research UK.

If a patient answered a question positively, that part of the digital garden would be represented as flourishing, but if the patient answered negatively, or was feeling unwell at the time of responding, the garden would start to wilt.

By mapping their suffering, patients are able to better describe what they are going through to doctors, friends and relatives, it is claimed.

Professor Martin said: "The idea of a garden came about as pain has different dimensions: sensory, emotional and general wellbeing that can sit as well defined items themselves - but they all link together.

"When you use the metaphor of a garden you have the garden as a whole but also within it distinct elements like plants, trees and water features. When you put it altogether you create the garden.

"Pain can be confusing for people as it runs alongside different emotions. They find it difficult to get this across. Getting people to understand what chronic pain impacts is important to help them deal with it."

He explained the pain the majority of people suffer is short-term with a pill able to take the pain away.

However, chronic pain doesn't go away to any degree. "It's a different experience and it can be difficult for people to come to terms with," he said.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.