YOUR HEALTH: Using green light to lessen migraines

TUCSON, Arizona – Two brothers and a walk in the park may have found a way to give some relief to migraine sufferers.

It couldn't come soon enough for Debi Lesneski who found her migraines were debilitating.

"So it was one migraine after another," she remembered.  "There was no break in between."

She was depressed and sick, unable to get out of bed some days.

Then, she heard about her pain doctor's trial.   Participants stared at L-E-D green lights one to two hours a day for ten weeks.

Debi was skeptical at first.

"Because it is so simple and it doesn't make any sense that some light can fix a problem that modern medicine can't even address.   And it worked."

"Regardless of the mechanism, the outcome is what really matters and people are both feeling better and their pain is getting better," explained Dr. Mohab Ibrahim, director of the University of Arizona's Chronic Pain Clinic.

Dr. Mohab Ibrahim and pharmacological professor Rajesh Khanna are trying to figure out why.

It worked on rats, so they ran a study using green lights on eight people, white on five more.   The green light group said their pain from migraine and fibromyalgia dropped 40% to 50%.

It could be partly psychological.

"But also, at a chemical, a neurochemical, it does something to tune the system so essentially what it's doing is increasing your happy hormones, your level of endogenous opioids," said Dr. Khanna

"The people in the green light group, they actually refused to return the green lights, and they wanted to keep it, so we let them keep it," said Dr. Ibrahim.

That includes Debi, who uses the lights 15 minutes, three times a week, and has stopped taking pain medications.

Both doctors caution people not to give up on their pain medication.  They say more study is needed.  They hope to get grants from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health to continue their studies.

NEW TREATMENT: Green light has been found to ease the pain of migraines. White, blue, and red light increase migraine pain, however, low-intensity green light seems to reduce it. The thalamus in the brain has neurons that transmit sensory information from our retinas. These cross over with other neurons that signal pain. As a result, during migraine, light can worsen pain and pain can cause visual disturbance. The brain and eye recordings taken from volunteers showed that green light created a lesser amount of electrical activity, both in the eye and the brain, than any other color of light. Researchers are hoping that there will be sunglasses that filter out different wavelengths of light, except green to help aide those with migraines. The team also experimented with other colors, and found that for whatever reason, green worked the best.  (Sources: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2089062-green-light-found-to-ease-the-pain-of-migraine/Dr. Mohab Ibrahim)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.