A new exhibition has opened in Bath to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the University’s Centre for Pain Research.

Ouch! An exploration of pain science and art, which is hosted at the 44AD artspace, runs until 10 October 2021 and includes a number of artworks inspired by research from the Centre. The exhibition, which has been funded by the University’s Public Engagement Unit, is also accessible online.

According to the British Pain Society, up to 28 million adults in the UK are living with chronic pain – lasting for three months or longer. Typically forms of chronic pain might include arthritis, severe back pain, but also conditions such as fibromyalgia or acute migraines.

Researchers at Bath are studying pain from different angles to find new ways to help those affected. Their research themes include the cognitive processes in pain, social factors including sex and gender differences, pain experienced in childhood, and digital technologies for better pain diagnosis and treatments.

Through the new exhibition, the researchers have teamed up with artists to explore the nature of pain and how it might be represented through art. By showcasing their work in this way, they want to start a conversation with visitors about pain and the impact it has on all of us.

Co-Director of the Centre for Pain Research, Professor Ed Keogh who has been instrumental in putting on Ouch! explained: “Pain is a personal and subjective experience, and finding ways to represent, express and communicate it can be a challenge. This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to get people thinking about pain, what it is and how it affects us, and in a way that is both visually engaging and thought-provoking.”

Katie O’Brien from 44AD commented: “Art and science are both driven by curiosity and discovery and it has been an invaluable experience collaborating with Professor Ed Keogh and the Centre for Pain Research.

“The result being 'Ouch!', a showcase of artworks by 20 artists, visually interpreting the nature of pain, and the impact it can have on our lives. We hope that this exhibition will present individual stories in an engaging and accessible way, whilst collectively highlighting the work undertaken at the Centre for Pain Research.”

Dr Helen Featherstone, Head of the Public Engagement Unit at the University, added: “We are delighted to see this fascinating exhibition open. Artists and our researchers always get a lot from collaborations like this. It’s an opportunity to learn from each other about new ways of exploring complex topics such as pain. “

The Centre for Pain Research was established in 2010. Projects from the research team focus on how pain affects us, and the lives we live with an underlying goal to better understand the mechanisms, function and impact of pain, and to develop more effective ways to manage it.

Notable recent research stories from the Centre include major research funding from UKRI and the charity Versus Arthritis to fund future transformative pain research; the team’s authorship of the landmark Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Commission 2020 (guidance which was subsequently adopted by the World Health Organization); as well as efforts to ensure patients with debilitating chronic pain conditions continued to receive support throughout the pandemic.