Home > Art Psych & Health > Healing Painting

Share with a friend today!

New resources each week.
SUBSCRIBE in the footer below
for notifications. 

A Healing Painting for My Back

I had a very interesting and unusual experience with a healing painting several years ago when I had a chronic back problem. At the time I was involved in a major project with a friend. Just when I thought we were getting things rolling, the situation in his life changed. He backed out and I continued on alone.  

Right around that time, I noticed that my back was hurting. I had to be careful not to stretch too far or bend too far forward. I had started doing yoga, but I didn’t remember injuring myself during yoga. I didn’t remember injuring myself at all. One day I just discovered that I had pain in my lower back. Little did I know that a semi-abstract piece of art would become a healing painting for me.

Body Symbolism and Back Pain

As I went through this experience, a friend of mine mentioned that there might be some symbolism involved. In this situation, I had thought that someone “had my back” but then felt let down. She suggested I focus on “having my own back” so to speak.

I ignored the pain as best I could. My back didn’t hurt all the time, but enough to limit my movement and exercise regime, which was very important to me. I tried gentle stretching and gave myself some time to heal. Weeks went by. Then months. There was absolutely no improvement.

Healing Painting Back Illustration

Hoping for a Solution

At this point, I was getting very discouraged. My back had been hurting for over a year. I didn’t want to seek medical help at that point. I thought there might be a slightly pinched nerve or compressed vertebrae.

Or maybe something with a ligament. I reasoned that a pulled or strained muscle would have healed by now.

I was concerned that I would be told from a medical perspective that the condition was permanent. I did not want to hear that. I wanted to believe that the pain could be resolved somehow. I kept hoping for a solution.

Creating a Healing Painting Unexpectedly

Over a year after the pain had started, I was creating a series of abstract paintings. Over the years I’ve done portraits, florals, landscapes and large abstracts, the latter usually with universe themes.

No matter what the subject, my aim has always been to create healing paintings that uplift the viewer in some way.

I like to say a prayer before a I start making art that my work be a healing painting in some way. I don’t always plan the subject. I simply set an intent and then ask that something pure or helpful will be created. Sometimes I call to angels to paint through me or with me.

Healing Painting of My Spine

Finding My Spine in an Abstract Painting

I do most of my abstract paintings in sequential layers. I’ll start out pouring multiple colors of very thin paint on a canvas, then let that dry for a day or two.

Then I’ll go back and look for patterns in the flowing shapes and colors. I’ll add another layer of colors, let that dry and repeat the process. I tried to stay in a neutral state and observe what is emerging in a painting.

After a few days on this particular one, I noticed that something like a spine was visible in the patterns of color. Sure enough, I had unintentionally painted an image of a spine and back!

Discovering a Misalignment in My Painting

I looked closely and knew that something was wrong. The spine wasn’t right. This was a painting of a misaligned spine! And I had the feeling that this was not any spine, but my own.

I didn’t know what to do with the painting or how it could function as a healing painting. I didn’t want to display or sell or reproduce an image of pain or distress. I set the painting aside to ponder the situation.

Harnessing the Placebo Effect for Healing

By the time the summer came around again, I was really frustrated with the lingering back pain. One day I remembered the painting, which I had named “I’ve Got Your Back.” The thought occurred to me that maybe I could use the painting in a concrete way to heal myself.

I had read about an experiment where patients needing knee surgery were divided up into three groups. Some received full knee surgery. Some had an alternate procedure. A third group had incisions done but did not have any knee surgery at all. None of the patients knew whether they had had the actual surgery or not.

The results suggested the same therapeutic benefits were achieved through non-invasive placebo surgery. Sometimes the results were even better. I thought maybe I could use the painting like a proxy. What if I did surgery on the painting and could get the same benefits as if I had had actual back surgery?

Post-Surgery Healing Painting Canvas

Surgery by Proxy with My Healing Painting

I rarely destroy or discard a painting. However, a year of back pain was more than enough incentive to try an experiment with this unique painting. I got the sharpest knife I could find from the kitchen.

I set the painting against a wall in the master bedroom, centered myself and set an intention for healing, asking for assistance from angels or guides or whatever divine help might be available. At first I tried only removing the center of the painting where the spine was clearly misaligned. Somehow that didn’t feel quite right.

Eventually I removed the entire spine from the painting, working for fifteen or twenty minutes. Now a third or even half of the painting was missing and the misaligned spine was completely gone.

I stopped my work on the painting and tried stretching again. The pain was diminished, but still present. I paused at the end of the experiment to reinforce my intention that the painting be a catalyst for healing. The painting itself was destroyed, so I put it out in my garage.

Over the course of the next few days, the pain disappeared entirely. I no longer had any limitations. At all. The painting was now in a pile of miscellaneous junk in the garage. I went out into the garage and rescued the painting long enough to take a photo. It was as though the pain and injury had never existed. 

Virtual Surgery Healed My Back

Over four years have passed since this experiment. The back pain has never returned. I sacrificed a painting and gained back a fully active life. I am sharing my experience to inspire others to use whatever tools work for them to keep the hope alive for a full recovery from whatever difficulty or challenge they are facing.

I am not suggesting in any way that this is a new method of treatment that will work for anyone else. We are all unique with our own paths to follow, especially where medical care is concerned. I am an artist and a musician. I am not a doctor or health practitioner. I am simply reporting what happened to me.

Maybe miracles are not always available, but sometimes they come in mysterious ways. I am grateful to have discovered that my creative efforts combined with faith and prayer were a successful combination. This experiment resulted in a healing painting that made a significant positive difference in my life.

Resources: Study Finds Common Knee Surgery No Better Than Placebo, Baylor College of Medicine, Science Daily 

Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.

Kathleen Karlsen Sacred Mantras & Symbolic Art

Kathleen’s Books

Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey and years of research into mantras, chanting and kirtan. Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life. 

Flower Symbols by Kathleen Karlsen features fascinating information about the folklore of the world’s most beloved flowers. Flowers accompany us in nearly every major event in life. This book is a perfect gift for every flower lover in your life! 

Other resources on the web: Vibrational Frequencies of Life.


This article covers a story of healing through an unusual form of art therapy: creating a painting and then using the painting for a type of virtual surgery to alleviate a back problem. Read the full story of a healing painting by artist Kathleen Karlsen.

Share with a friend today!