Migraine sufferers are tormented by light; darkness is their savior.
Why? Light stimulates the brain and various light types provide different levels of stimulation: red generates the most electric signals while green provides the least. Now, researchers have found that green light therapy may reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches and improve quality of life for those who live with migraines.
Studying green light therapy
In a small preliminary study, researchers affiliated with the University of Arizona Health Sciences Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center exposed 29 people—all of whom experience episodic or chronic migraine and failed multiple traditional therapies, such as oral medications and Botox injections— to white and green light.
Specifically, patients were exposed to white light for one to two hours a day for 10 weeks. After a two-week break, they repeated the treatment except exposing themselves to green light. They completed regular surveys and questionnaires to track the number of headaches they experienced and the intensity of those headaches, as well as quality of life measurements such as the ability to fall and stay asleep or to perform work.
What they found
Using a numeric pain scale of 0 to 10, participants noted that green light exposure resulted in a 60% reduction in pain, from 8 to 3.2. In addition, a majority of study participants—86% of episodic migraine patients and 63% of chronic migraine patients—reported reducing their headache days per month by at least 50%. (Episodic migraine is characterized by up to 14 headache days per month, while chronic migraine is characterized as 15 or more headache days per month.)
Green light therapy also shortened the duration of headaches, and improved participants’ ability to fall and stay asleep, perform chores, exercise, and work. What’s more: None of the study participants reported any side effects of green light exposure, according to the report in the journal Cephalalgia.
What it means for migraines
“Despite recent advances, the treatment of migraine headaches is still a challenge,” co-author Amol Patwardhan, MD, PhD, an associate professor and the vice chair of research in the department of anesthesiology said in a statement. “The use of a nonpharmacological therapy such as green light can be of tremendous help to a variety of patients that either do not want to be on medications or do not respond to them. The beauty of this approach is the lack of associated side effects. If at all, it appears to improve sleep and other quality of life measures.”
During this trial, the researchers controlled the intensity, frequency, and exposure time and methods of the green light. And while this is a good option to try, this is a preliminary study that needs to be explored more. If the underlying mechanism can be determined and understood, then this type of therapy could have implications as treatment for other conditions as well.