Can Green Light Therapy Help Your Migraine?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

It’s well known that there is a connection between migraine and light.

Migraine attacks are often accompanied by severe light sensitivity, or photophobia. That’s why some people ride out migraine attacks in a darkened room. Bright lights or flashing lights may even trigger attacks.

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When it comes to migraine, light therapy may seem counterintuitive. But some research suggests that light therapy, specifically green light, may play a role in reducing the intensity of migraine attacks.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine affects about 39 million people in the United States and 1 billion people worldwide. If you’re one of them, you know just how debilitating migraine attacks can be and why interest in complementary therapies is so high.

Read on to learn more about green light for migraine and what research says about its effectiveness.

What is green light therapy?

All light generates electrical signals in the retina at the back of your eye and in the cortex region of your brain.

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Red and blue lights generate the largest signals. Green light generates the smallest signals. This is probably why it’s less likely to bother people with photophobia. For some people, migraine symptoms may even improve.

Green light therapy is more than just a green light bulb or a green glow. Instead, it involves a specific, narrow band of green light from a special lamp. You have to spend time in this green light while filtering out all other light.

But what is really known about green light therapy? Is it a viable option for easing the intensity of migraine attacks?

What does the research say?

Many people with migraine experience photophobia, which can exacerbate pain.

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A 2016 study found that green light is significantly less likely to exacerbate migraine attacks than white, blue, amber, or red. Almost 80 percent of study participants reported intensified symptoms with every color except green, which only affected half as many. Twenty percent of participants reported that green light reduced migraine pain.

The researchers suggest that at low intensities and filtering out all other light, green light may lessen the intensity of photophobia and migraine pain.

A 2017 study involved three groups of rats with neuropathic pain.

One group was bathed in green light from LED strips. A second group was exposed to room light and contact lenses allowing the green spectrum wavelength to pass through. A third group had opaque contact lenses that blocked green light.

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Both groups exposed to green light benefited, with effects lasting 4 days from the last exposure. The group that was deprived of green light saw no benefit. No side effects were observed.

It’s thought that green light may increase certain pain-relieving chemicals in the brain.

A small, randomized, clinical trial is currently being carried out that focuses on fibromyalgia and migraine pain. Participants will use an LED green light strip at home every day for 10 weeks. Then their level of pain, use of pain relievers, and quality of life will be assessed.

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The research on green light therapy is very limited at this point, especially with regard to how green light affects migraine attacks in humans. More research is needed to determine whether this is a beneficial treatment option for migraine pain.

Using green light therapy

Although the research seems promising, its effectiveness hasn’t been definitively demonstrated. Therefore, there are currently no clear guidelines for using green light for migraine.

You can buy green lamps online, including some that are marketed as migraine lamps. At this point in time, though, due to the lack of sufficient clinical evidence and established guidelines, you may want to explore other treatment options before you consider green light therapy.

Your doctor might be able to provide additional insight into green light therapy and whether it’s worth considering.

What about other types of complementary therapy?

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Medications for migraine can effectively treat or reduce attacks for many people. Some people may not respond well to medication, or there may be side effects.

Other nonpharmaceutical options that may help reduce the frequency of migraines or ease symptoms include:

  • Keeping a journal. Tracking your diet, sleep, and physical activity may help you identify and avoid migraine triggers.
  • Sleeping smart. Not sleeping well can trigger an attack. Try to stick to regular sleep hours. Relax before bedtime by taking a warm bath, reading, or listening to soothing music. Also, avoid heavy foods or caffeinated drinks for at least 2 hours before bed.
  • Eating well. Eat at regular times and try not to skip meals. Avoid foods that seem to trigger an attack.
  • Getting regular exercise. Physical activity helps release chemicals that block pain signals. Exercise can also boost your mood and improve overall health and well-being.
  • Increasing magnesium. Research has shown that there may be a link between migraine and a deficiency in magnesium. Rich sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, leafy greens, low fat yogurt, and eggs. You may also want to talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.

Stress can aggravate or trigger a migraine attack. You can’t completely eliminate stress in your life, but you can lessen its impact through practices such as:

    yoga
  • tai chi
  • mindfulness or focused meditation
  • body scan meditation
  • deep breathing exercises
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • biofeedback
  • massage

There are also steps you can take when you feel those first twinges of a migraine attack, or at any point during an attack:

  • Adjust the lights. Lower the lights or turn them off.
  • Lower the volume. Get away from loud or disturbing sounds. Use white noise, if it helps.
  • Have some caffeine. A drink that contains caffeine may help ease migraine pain. That’s why you’ll find this ingredient in many headache remedies. Don’t overdo it, though, because too much caffeine can lead to rebound headaches.
  • Relax. Take a nap, soak in the tub, do breathing exercises, or go for a walk outside if that’s what helps you unwind.
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Talk to your doctor about complementary treatments for migraine, and which ones may be right for you.

The bottom line

Green light therapy for migraine is a promising avenue of research, but currently its effectiveness is inconclusive. Until more research is done, guidelines are lacking regarding how to effectively use green light therapy for migraine relief.

Instead of spending money on green light lamps or other green light products, you may want to consider other migraine treatment options that have more robust clinical evidence to support their effectiveness.

Talk to your doctor about the therapies and treatments that may work best for your migraine symptoms.

Read more on: migraines


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