During a migraine, the last thing you may want to use as a treatment is light. Most people (a whopping 80 percent) who suffer these excruciating headaches are sensitive to light and want to avoid it altogether, preferring a cool, dark room for relief. While photophobia, or light sensitivity, is not as debilitating as a migraine itself, it can make going about daily activities such as using a computer or working in a building with fluorescent lighting impossible.
But new research indicates that a specific color of light can help reduce the pain of a migraine by up to 20 percent, opening the door for possible new therapies to help migraine sufferers.
Green Light as Migraine Treatment
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2010 conducted a study on 69 migraineurs over a period of five years from 2010 to 2015 to understand how light affected migraine pain, specifically which colors of the spectrum intensified the patients’ pain levels. Patients ranged from 15 to 85 years of age with the majority being women.
Each patient sat in a dark room for 20 minutes before participation to establish their baseline pain levels and photophobia. They were then subjected to varying intensities of white, blue, green, amber, and red light. Between each color, the patient was allowed to sit in darkness for three minutes to re-establish baseline migraine levels.
What the researchers found was surprising. While white, blue, amber, and red lights all exacerbated migraine pain, green light actually decreased the intensity of the patient’s pain by up to 20 percent. To understand why this occurred, the researchers conducted experiments on rats to determine how signals generated by the cone cells of the retina (which provide color vision) affected migraine pain.
They found that light signals from the retina passing through the thalamus of the brain vary in strength based on the color of the light. White, blue, amber and red lights had the strongest signals, with blue being the strongest of the four, while green was the weakest of all five colors. This suggests the thalamus has some influence on photophobia, especially during a migraine.
Light Therapy as Treatment
Light therapy is already being used to treat conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as well as acne and other skin conditions. This study suggests a new avenue of light therapy that may help lessen the intensity of migraines, but further research needs to be conducted.
If you suffer from headaches or migraines, contact the National Headache Institute. Our physicians can help you find the right course of treatment so you can get back to the life you want to live. Contact us today to schedule your appointment. We have several convenient locations.