Migraine is a chronic, debilitating neurological disease that’s distressingly common and notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat.
The Migraine Research Foundation says one in four American households includes someone who suffers from migraines, and more than 90 percent of sufferers are unable to function normally during their attacks.
But there may be a new, cost-effective treatment that greatly reduces the pain level and frequency of migraines, eliminating the need for expensive medications and their associated side effects…
The benefits of green light therapy
In a University of Arizona Health Sciences study, researchers found that exposing 29 migraine patients to green light-emitting diodes (LEDs) resulted in about a 60 percent reduction in pain intensity and an average 60 percent reduction in the number of days per month they experienced migraine headaches.
The study participants were all migraine sufferers who had failed multiple traditional therapies, such as oral medications and Botox injections. They were given light strips and instructions to follow while completing the study at home.
For the first 10 weeks, they exposed themselves to white LEDs for one to two hours a day. After a two-week break, they were exposed to green LEDs for the same time frame and duration. The green light used in the study was bright enough to allow for reading or exercise; however, no other light sources — such as from televisions, smartphones or computer screens — were allowed.
About 86 percent of episodic migraine patients and 63 percent of chronic migraine patients reported a reduction of more than 50 percent in headache days per month. Episodic migraine patients have up to 14 headache days per month, while patients who have 15 or more headache days per month are classified as chronic.
In terms of pain, green light exposure reduced participants’ pain from an 8 to a 3.2 on a scale of 0 to 10, or by about 60 percent. Green light therapy also shortened the duration of their headaches and improved their ability to fall and stay asleep, do chores, exercise and work.
Best of all, there were no reported side effects of green light exposure.
“One of the ways we measured participant satisfaction was, when we enrolled people, we told them they would have to return the light at the end of the study,” says lead study author Dr. Mohab Ibrahim. “But when it came to the end of the study, we offered them the option to keep the light, and 28 out of the 29 decided to keep it.”
“The beauty of this approach is the lack of associated side effects,” adds co-author Dr. Amol Patwardhan. “If at all, it appears to improve sleep and other quality of life measures.”
How green light affects the brain
Green light impacts the brain in a number of ways. For instance, when the eye picks up green light, it sends signals to the brain to reset the body’s internal clock. This changes production levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep cycles.
Green light also changes serotonin levels and alters the pain-relieving system found throughout the body due to the connections from the retina to the spinal cord that pass through parts of the brain that control pain.
Dr. Ibrahim and Dr. Patwardhan have been studying the benefits of green light therapy for several years, and Dr. Ibrahim is researching it for other uses as well. He and his team recently completed a study of green light therapy in people with fibromyalgia, with encouraging results. And he plans to study the effects of green light exposure on HIV-related neuropathy and the hypersensitivity associated with antiretroviral therapy.
If you’re interested in trying green light for migraines, you can find options online, including a green light lamp by Allay, with a patent-pending band of soothing light.
Stopping migraine before it starts
Preventing a migraine attack is preferable to treating it once it starts. If you suffer from migraine, you are probably familiar with at least some of the conditions that can trigger an attack. Try to avoid the following triggers as best you can…
Lifestyle triggers: These include changes in sleep patterns, skipping meals, dehydration, overexertion and stress.
Environmental triggers: These include strong smells, bright or flickering lights, smoke and other air pollutants, altitude, air pressure brought on by airplane travel, motion sickness, humidity (both high and low), sudden changes in temperature or barometric pressure, and bright sunlight.
Hormonal triggers: These include changes in hormone levels, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause.
Medication triggers: These include hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives and overuse of pain medications, as well as medication side effects.
Food triggers: There is no strong scientific evidence linking migraine to specific food triggers. And if they do exist, they differ from person to person. Some common foods and additives named as migraine triggers include MSG; artificial sweeteners; nitrates like those found in cured meats; tyramines, which are found in fermented foods, aged cheeses, freshly baked yeast bread and cake; alcohol, especially red wine and beer; and caffeine.
What is Migraine? — Migraine Research Foundation
Green Light Therapy Shown to Reduce Migraine Frequency, Intensity — University of Arizona Health Sciences
Exposure to green light may reduce pain — Texas Medical Center
Shining a Green Light on a New Preventive Therapy for Migraine — University of Arizona Health Sciences
Migraine triggers — Migraine Research Foundation