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Somatic practice, chronic pain and self-care technology

Arts and Humanities Research Council


Principal Investigator Dr Emma Meehan Coventry University Centre for Dance Research 

Co-Investigator Professor Bernie Carter Edge Hill University Faculty of Health and Social Care

This network brings together experts from dance and somatic practices, health and digital design to explore the living, sensate and subjectively experienced body in context as a means of understanding chronic pain and self-care strategies. Current pain management programmes offer layered treatments, covering physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology and medical procedures.

Somatic practices have been used in treating pain in private sessions and occasionally in health care contexts (hospital/GP surgery), but are not widespread in being acknowledged as a source of support for those experiencing chronic pain. Somatic practices offer body-mind reflective tools that support taking ownership of one's own bodily experience and finding ways of living with complex conditions.

The network seeks to stimulate a dialogue between arts based (dance, media, design) and science based (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing) experts who are both practitioners and academics to explore innovative and transdisciplinary methods for understanding multi-dimensional pain experience in relation to sense-perception and environmental factors. 

The key questions of the network are:

  • How can an exchange between researcher-practitioners in dance and health extend an understanding of chronic pain management, drawing attention to subjective body-mind experience and social context?
  • Can technology offer ways of capturing and sharing the principles of somatic-informed dance in recording, mapping, expressing, communicating and managing chronic pain?
  • What can a transdisciplinary network offer back to each of the disciplines, as an equal exchange of expertise?

The network proposes to change the methods for working with chronic pain across disciplines of dance and health, creating new collaborative approaches. It also will develop approaches for articulating and discussing pain experience in collaboration with healthcare workers and people with chronic pain, supported by somatic principles. Further, the network will develop ways of communicating the value of dance and somatic practices in healthcare settings, and understanding of pain in dance contexts. Finally, the network will create opportunities to test how technology can be deployed in capturing and sharing somatic principles for pain management. The key stakeholders that the network seeks to benefit include independent somatic movement practitioners, healthcare workers, those experiencing chronic pain and e-health professionals and organisations.

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