Can Art Boost Physical Therapy Outcomes in Men Over 40

There’s an estimated 5,500 registered art therapists nationwide, with demand starting to grow as people become more aware of the benefits.

Art therapy helps treat both physical and psychological illnesses.  It is particularly effective when used in conjunction with other therapies.  This includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or painkillers.

Art therapy is effective for managing stress and anxiety, especially an illnesses that cause pain.

This healing modality can be seen as a feminine form of therapy, but it can be just as beneficial for men. It’s important to break down the masculine stereotypes that could also be contributing to mental health problems.


Types Of Art Therapy

Art is a very broad term and includes almost anything that involves being creative. Art therapy doesn’t fit into the traditional idea of male stereotypes, and isn’t always considered masculine.

However, gender stereotypes are evolving.  Men are being encouraged to engage with their more feminine side and express their emotions. Importantly, art therapies can range from several modalities such as:

  • dance
  • drama
  • music,
  • movement
  • visual art
  • drawing
  • painting
  • sculpting

Art can be done privately by men until they’re ready to share their creations.  Men use it as a way of expressing and distracting yourself. It can also be done guided by therapists who can interpret any emotional undertones to the art.  This makes it a good way to start conversations for talking therapies.


Does It Matter Which Type Of Art Therapy You Use?

While some art therapies are about expressing your emotions, others are about moving your body. Using art as a physical therapy involves using the body, usually to rehabilitate a physical injury.

Dancing, making music and acting are all effective, but tend to suit those who are more physically abled. Simply holding a pencil or some crayons for drawing or coloring can strengthen the arms and improve dexterity.  These also work well to improve mental health and reduce stress.

It really doesn’t matter which form of art therapy you opt for, as long as it suits your capabilities and you feel good doing it.


Using Art With Physical Rehabilitation

art therapy supplies

Men are more likely than women to need physical rehabilitation, as they tend to do more physical jobs. They also often engage in risk-taking behaviors that can result in injuries.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center carried out research with 21 patients.  These adults were recovering from strokes, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries, in order to see if art enhanced physical therapy sessions.

They created an interactive computer program that worked using modern gaming technology and acted as a rehabilitation tool. The 21 patients were connected to motion sensors.  This allowed their body movements to creat abstract art on a screen, while being in their own personal space within the system

This helped the patients to focus on the image they were creating while encouraging movement. It also offers a very personal way of healing.  Their images were unique and the therapy revolved around what they could do, rather than what they couldn’t.


Art For People Who Aren’t Creative

Many people believe that they can’t draw or aren’t creative and therefore aren’t good at art. Men tend to have not experimented with their creative side as much as women, but art therapy offers a safe environment for men to express themselves, especially as there are many different forms of art therapy.

Everyone can draw, even if it’s doodling simple flowers or faces on the edge of some paper, this is still a way of expressing how you’re feeling in that moment.

Look into different art therapies using various materials to work with, such as woods or ceramics, to the more conventional, pencils or paints. You could learn to play an instrument, join a dance class or become an amateur actor.

These all involve self expression and these physical art therapies can reap many benefits. Some art therapies can be just as good, if not better, than traditional therapies, such as making music instead of taking antidepressants.


Adult Coloring Books

adult coloring books

Adult coloring books have become popular in recent years and can be used as a physical therapy for many illnesses. They are useful for improving memory, concentration and coordination.

People who have had a stroke will benefit from coloring.  This is particularly true if the stroke is affecting their dominant hand, as it can help to rebuild strength. Coloring uses the creative side of the brain, which can aid cognitive and sensory development and maintenance.

A 2006 study found that mindfulness-based art therapy involving adult coloring books decreased distress and anxiety.  Cancer patients and people with chronic illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease or post-traumatic stress disorder, expressed that coloring gave them great comfort.

The brain’s amygdala is responsible for worry and panic, but it’s been shown to calm down during simple and mindless acts, such as coloring. Most adult coloring books have been aimed at women, with floral and animal designs, but men’s books are joining the craze, with designs and books specifically for male interests.


Art And Coping With Pain

It’s unlikely that art therapy will replace painkillers, especially for chronic conditions, but it can be used alongside them to help manage the stress and anxiety that pain can cause, as well as reduce the perception of pain.

A study from The Arts In Psychotherapy in 2018 looked at people who were hospitalized for medical issues or surgery. The participants who spent an average of 50 minutes doing art therapy had significantly better moods and lower levels of pain and anxiety, illustrating how art therapy can help patients with pain.

Art therapy for men offers the chance to express yourself to a professional without having to directly open up. It can be difficult for men to talk about how they’re feeling, so expressing themselves through art is a good alternative outlet and can help to get a conversation started.

Art therapy can also help when recovering from illnesses and dealing with pain, making it a worthwhile avenue to explore.


Author Bio

Jane Sandwood has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years. Her main interest is exploring how people can improve their health and wellbeing in their everyday life. When she isn’t writing, Jane can often be found with her nose in a good book, at the gym, or just spending quality time with her family.

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