This network brings together practitioners/researchers from dance and somatic practices, health and digital design, as well as people living with pain, 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 multidisciplinary 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. Current pain assessment is often of value in measuring a range of objective outcomes such as increased mobility but is limited in assessing, exploring and understanding the shifting lived experience of those living with pain. The lens of assessment also rarely incorporates the layers of knowledge gathered by practitioners (e.g., physiotherapists) or carers (e.g., family) through their extended periods of contact with the person experiencing pain. Further, the language of self-care in somatics or self-management in health can have different affects and motivations ranging from more person-centred to more societal ones; for example returning 'expertise' to those with chronic pain, or moving financial and social responsibility from the state to the individual in neo-liberal economies. Notwithstanding the issues of self management, the representation of lived experience through digital tools can offer methods for recording and analysing disparate layers of experience - visualising personal narratives of pain, sharing health care and somatic perspectives on pain and gathering an array of techniques for living with chronic pain. Somatic practices offer methods for observing and communicating subjective experiences of pain through moving, speaking, writing, and drawing which can be captured using audio-visual means, offering ways of articulating experiences arising from sensation, emotion, thoughts, images, narrative, and so on. Attention to somatic experience also brings with it an awareness of the body in context, revealing the embodiment of social, cultural, economic and political factors. In relation to pain, a sample of these factors include access to care related to gender, race, education and social status; stigmatisation surrounding 'invisible' chronic health problems; and differing beliefs surrounding pain by patients, family members, and healthcare professionals. Somatic approaches offer a means for those experiencing and treating pain to understand better how contextual factors manifest in bodily experience (e.g. what is the somatic experience of not being able to articulate pain or not feeling believed about pain experiences) and to see how socio-cultural issues impact on pain perception, experience and expression.
The Somatic Practice and Chronic Pain Network brings together researchers from dance, health and digital design as well as people living with pain to explore chronic pain management. In particular, it focuses on a group of dance and movement approaches called ‘somatic practices'. The network is organising events to share knowledge and develop ideas, working with multiple partners to do this. We also publish articles, blogs and other resources, along with sharing practices on dance, somatic practices and chronic pain. The network is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK to create a series of small scale events and research exchanges. We aim to grow larger scale research projects and events in future.