Externalizing the Private Experience of Pain: A Role for Co-Speech Gestures in Pain Communication?

Samantha Rowbotham, Donna M. Lloyd, Judith Holler, Alison Wearden

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    ©, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.Despite the importance of effective pain communication, talking about pain represents a major challenge for patients and clinicians because pain is a private and subjective experience. Focusing primarily on acute pain, this article considers the limitations of current methods of obtaining information about the sensory characteristics of pain and suggests that spontaneously produced “co-speech hand gestures” may constitute an important source of information here. Although this is a relatively new area of research, we present recent empirical evidence that reveals that co-speech gestures contain important information about pain that can both add to and clarify speech. Following this, we discuss how these findings might eventually lead to a greater understanding of the sensory characteristics of pain, and to improvements in treatment and support for pain sufferers. We hope that this article will stimulate further research and discussion of this previously overlooked dimension of pain communication.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)70-80
    Number of pages10
    JournalHealth Communication
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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