Green Light Therapy for Photophobic Migraineurs

Over 39 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraine attacks, and migraine is the 3rd most common illness in the world. If you are one of the millions living with pain from migraine, chances are you’ve tried every treatment under the sun to find relief. Unfortunately, not all migraines are created equally, making it a challenge to manage symptoms.

For many, light sensitivity is a common migraine trigger, affecting a reported 15 percent of the global population.  Several recent studies have shown that green light therapy may significantly help reduce symptoms of light sensitivity, also referred to as ‘photophobia.’ Green light therapy is sparking discussion among migraine researchers and doctors, and it has become an increasingly popular treatment path for migraineurs. 

What is Green Light Therapy?

Harvard Medical School reports 80 percent of all migraine attacks are made worse by light sensitivity. Because of this, migraineurs often resort to shutting themselves away in a dark room, waiting for the symptoms to pass. But light therapy may be offering a viable solution to help eliminate these debilitating symptoms, along with the need for more aggressive and risky treatments.

In several of the initial green light therapy studies, researchers had chronic migraineurs look at green LED lights for one to two hours every day for ten weeks. During this time, their symptoms and level of pain were recorded, giving facilitators an idea of how (and if) it was working. These low-intensity green LED lights are believed to have pain-blocking effects, which is why exposure to green lights can help reduce crippling symptoms of migraine.

How Light Affects Migraine Pain

Photophobia is not a fear of light, but rather a neurological symptom of migraine. Often associated with silent migraines, patients regularly experience pain from exposure to light. Within the last decade, researchers discovered that light could make a migraine attack even more painful by stimulating nerve cells in the brain that are active during an episode like this.

Some of the ways light can trigger a migraine include:

●     Glare

●     Bright lights

●     Blue light from computer screens, tablet, smartphones, and other technology

●     Lights from TV and movies

●     Flickering or pulsing lights

●     Repetitive patterns of light

What the Research Says

It may seem counterintuitive to treat light sensitivity with light, but the research paints a different picture. When scientists first started looking at how the intensity of light affects migraine symptoms, they were surprised to see green light actually reduces pain by up to 20 percent. Through various closed studies and experiments, it was discovered that green light generates the smallest electrical signal by the retina, while blue and red lights create the biggest signals. This is the reason why blue light glasses may be a huge help to those who spend much of their day in front of a screen of any kind.

As we work to understand more about green light therapy and how it affects migraines, I expect many will want to experiment with it because it’s a risk-free and safe way to manage migraine pain.

Sources

Neurology Times – Green Light Therapy and Migraines: Will Research Translate to Real-World Use? Harvard Medical School – Green Light for Migraine Relief

VeryWellHealth – Light: A Therapy (and Trigger) for Migraines