Green light therapy shows promise in migraine treatment

University of Arizona Health Sciences/Kris Hanning

People who suffer from migraine may benefit from green light therapy, which was shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches and improve patient quality of life, according to new research from the University of Arizona Health Sciences published in the journal Cephalalgia.

The initial clinical study included 29 people, all of whom experience episodic or chronic migraine and failed multiple traditional therapies, such as oral medications and Botox injections. During the study, patients were exposed to white light for one to two hours a day for 10 weeks. After a two-week break, they were exposed to green light for 10 weeks. They completed regular surveys and questionnaires to track the number of headaches they experienced and the intensity of those headaches, as well as quality of life measurements such as the ability to fall and stay asleep or to perform work.

Using a numeric pain scale of 0 to 10, participants noted that green light exposure resulted in a 60 percent reduction in pain, from 8 to 3.2. Green light therapy also shortened the duration of headaches, and improved participants' ability to fall and stay asleep, perform chores, exercise, and work. None of the study participants reported any side effects of green light exposure, the researchers said.

Overall, green light exposure reduced the number of headache days per month by an average of about 60 percent.  Most study participants, 86 percent of episodic migraine patients and 63 percent of chronic migraine patients, reported a more than 50 percent reduction in headache days per month. Episodic migraine is characterized by up to 14 headache days per month, while chronic migraine is 15 or more headache days per month.

“These are great findings, but this is where the story begins,” said Mohab Ibrahim, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and director of the Chronic Pain Management Clinic. “As a scientist, I am really interested in how this works because if I understand the mechanism, then I can utilize it for other conditions. I can use it as a tool to manipulate the biological systems to achieve as much as we can.”