Using a Body Map to Describe your Symptoms

Advocacy Resources, Lifestyle & Wellness, Relationships, Resources, Young Adult

Drawing how you visualize your condition can be extremely powerful. Art can be used as a therapy and has shown to lead to increased quality of life ⁽¹⁾. It can also help healthcare professionals understand the experience of health and illness ⁽¹⁾. Additionally, art can be used as a communication tool to share with family and friends to help them better understand how you experience your body.

Body mapping is a form of art that helps to visually represent one’s life⁽²⁾. It has been shown to be an important tool in exploring chronic pain ⁽²⁾. Body maps can be useful tools for therapeutics, advocacy, communication, art and even biography ⁽²⁾.

Sex & SpA Banner 2

Below we have provided a print-out that can be used as a body map. Typically it is done on a life-size piece of paper but having a smaller one may be more conducive to sharing it with loved ones and health care professionals. Get creative, use different coloured pens, paints, glitter and even magazine cutouts. We can be quick to say “I’m not an artist!” but set those labels aside and give it a try, you may actually find that it is very useful and therapeutic. There is also a space at the bottom to describe other symptoms or emotions you are feeling that you may not be able to accurately depict on the body.

Often those with chronic pain indicate where their pain is located on the map. Feel free to add other elements in your life that you see fit. The list below consists of descriptors that people living with SpA use to describe their illness. If you’re having a hard time finding the right words, this may help.

Body Map Example - Back
  • Joint feels tight
  • Stabbing pain
  • Gnawing pain
  • Relentless
  • Exhausting
  • Searing pain
  • Numbing
  • Shocking
  • Burning
  • Breathtaking
  • Paralysing
  • Stiffening
  • Throbbing
  • Pulsating
  • Constant
  • Debilitating pain
  • Sensitive to touch
  • Aching
  • Fire
  • Crushing

Blank Body Map

Blank Body Map - Front
Blank Body Map - Back

Right click on the above images to download/save as or Download a PDF of our Body Map here to print out.


1- Stuckey, Heather L, and Jeremy Nobel. “The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature.” American journal of public health vol. 100,2 (2010): 254-63. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497

2-  Gastaldo, D., Magalhães, L., Carrasco, C., and Davy, C. (2012). Body-Map Storytelling as Research: Methodological considerations for telling the stories of undocumented workers through body mapping. Retrieved from http://www. migrationhealth.ca/undocumented-workers-ontario/body-mapping

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