Green Light for Migraines: Does This Therapy Work?
Green Light Therapy
February 25, 2021
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“Migraine is one of the most common neurological conditions in the world, and it’s debilitating,” said Dr. Ibrahim
The noninvasive nature of green light exposure makes it an ideal therapeutic candidate for other neurological conditions, such as fibromyalgia or HIV-related pain. Dr. Ibrahim and his team recently completed another clinical study in which people with fibromyalgia tried green light therapy. Like the migraine study, those results are similarly encouraging.
Pharmacological management of migraines can be ineffective for some patients. Studies previously demonstrated that exposure to green light resulted in antinociception and reversal of thermal and mechanical hypersensitivity in rodent pain models. Given green light-emitting diodes' safety, they evaluated green light as a potential therapy in patients with episodic or chronic migraines.
For the study, they recruited (29 total) patients, of whom seven had episodic migraines, and 22 had chronic migraines. They used a one-way cross-over design consisting of exposure for 1–2 hours daily to the white light-emitting diodes for 10 weeks, followed by a 2-week washout period followed by exposure for 1–2 hours daily green light-emitting diodes for 10 weeks. Patients were allowed to continue current therapies and to initiate new treatments as directed by their physicians. Outcomes consisted of patient-reported surveys. The primary outcome measure was the number of headache days per month. Secondary outcome measures included patient-reported changes in the headaches' intensity and frequency over a two-week period and other quality of life measures, including the ability to fall and stay asleep and ability to perform work. Changes in pain medications were obtained to assess potential reduction.
When seven episodic migraine and 22 chronic migraine patients were analyzed as separate cohorts, white light-emitting diodes produced no significant change in headache days in either episodic migraine or chronic migraine patients. Combining data from the episodic migraine and chronic migraine groups showed that white light-emitting diodes produced a small but statistically significant reduction in headache days (days ± SEM) 18.2 ± 1.8 to 16.5 ± 2.01 days. Green light-emitting diodes resulted in a significant decrease in headache days from 7.9 ± 1.6 to 2.4 ± 1.1 and 22.3 ± 1.2 to 9.4 ± 1.6 in episodic migraine and chronic migraine patients, respectively. While some improvement in secondary outcomes was observed with white light-emitting diodes, more secondary outcomes with significantly greater magnitude, including assessments of the quality of life, Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire, Headache Impact Test-6, and Five-level version of the EuroQol five-dimensional survey without reported side effects, were observed with green light-emitting diodes. Conclusions regarding pain medications reduction with green light-emitting diode exposure were not possible. No side effects of light therapy were reported. None of the patients in the study reported initiation of new therapies.
Green light-emitting diodes significantly reduced the number of headache days in people with episodic migraines or chronic migraines. Additionally, the green light-emitting diodes significantly improved multiple secondary outcome measures, including quality of life, intensity, and headache attack duration. As no adverse events were reported, the green light-emitting diodes may provide a treatment option for those patients who prefer non-pharmacological therapies or may be considered in complementing other treatment strategies. The limitations of this study are the small number of patients evaluated. The positive data obtained support the implementation of larger clinical trials to determine the possible effects of green light-emitting diode therapy.
This study is registered with clinicaltrials.gov under NCT03677206.