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Health Tip of the Week: Green Light Therapy for Migraines

Recently reported on in NPR, a new drug free treatment for migraine sufferers is on the horizon. This newly researched treatment (so new it hasn’t been published yet), involves green light. Researchers at the University of Arizona are testing daily exposure to green light and the effect it has on migraine headaches and other chronic pain.

You are probably wondering how doctors came up with such a strange idea to treat pain. Simple ideas have even simpler beginnings. Dr. Mohab Ibrahim, who directs the chronic pain clinic at Banner - University Medical Center Tucson, Arizona was having a conversation with his brother who suffers from chronic migraine headaches. The doctor’s brother told him that rather than take medication, he would sit in his garden and eventually the pain would subside.

Dr. Ibrahim got to thinking about the color green and how green light might be able to be used as a therapy tool. Ibrahim designed an animal study using rats that was published in Pain journal in 2017. The study found that the rat’s pain level decreased with daily exposure to green light.

The animal study research results were able to be reproduced time and time again, which gave the doctor enough confidence to know that his research was on to something.

The study, involving 25 people and LED green light at the University of Arizona, produced promising results. On average, people experienced a 60% decrease in the intensity of their migraines and a drop from 20 migraines a month to about six.

While research in this area is still very young, it does appear to show a connection to green light and pain reduction. The science seems to show that there is a link between the body’s visual system and nervous system which is having positive effects on headache reduction.

Further research in all of these areas is being conducted to establish solid evidence for green light to be used as a therapy for headache reduction.

Coincidently, a chiropractor who cares for chronic pain patients with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Grand Junction, Colorado, read Dr. Ibrahim’s study and on a whim went online and ordered green glasses and gave them to some of his patients.

He told his patients that the results in the green light study were positive, but experimental and that there was no way of knowing how the green glasses would work compared to LED green light. Since the negative health side effects of wearing green glasses are basically non-existent, the chiropractor told his patients with chronic pain to give it a shot.

He found that after a short period of time, his patients were coming back with positive reviews.

Padma Gulur, a professor of anesthesiology, who is leading a Duke University study on the same topic says, "It just goes to show the power of our nervous system in how it responds and adapts to different stimuli.” She says "minimal harm, ease of access and compliance" are all strong cases for seriously considering the feasibility of green light. "Even if we see 50% of patients benefit from this, then already it becomes something worth trying," she says.


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