Migraine is the third most prevalent illness worldwide, affecting over one billion people. In the United States alone, 39 million alone are affected. Described as “one of the most difficult neurological conditions,” the extreme pain and accompanying symptoms of migraines make it an often debilitating disability. Green light therapy, a new tool in holistic pain management for migraines, could prove itself to be life-changing.
Green Light Therapy For Holistic Pain Management
In a recent study, green light exposure provided a significant reduction in headache days per month. Eighty-six percent of people with episodic migraine, and 63 percent with chronic migraine, saw their number of headache days reduced by more than half. Episodic migraine indicates a frequency of 14 or fewer headache days per month. Migraine is described as “chronic” if its frequency is 15 or more days each month.
All participants had to have experienced a migraine in the last 10 weeks before the study. This ruled out their headaches as just going away. Volunteers were overall happy with these results. While they were initially instructed to return the green light strips at the end of the study, 28 out of 29 decided to keep theirs once they were told they could.
During this study, the participants were first exposed to white light for one to two hours a day for ten weeks. After a break of two weeks, they were exposed to green light for 10 weeks. Using a scale of zero to 10, participants recorded an average pain relief of 60 percent, from 8.0 to 3.2. Their duration of headaches shortened, and overall quality of life improved. On average, headache days fell from 22.3 to 9.4 days in chronic migraine patients, and from 7.9 to 2.4 days in people with episodic migraines.
Would Any Green Light Do The Trick?
This doesn’t mean you can expect relief from any old green party light you could buy from a dollar store. “In this trial, we treated green light as a drug,” Dr. Ibrahim says. “It’s not any green light. It has to be the right intensity, the right frequency, the right exposure time, and the right exposure methods. Just like with medications, there is a sweet spot with light.”
The exact specifications of the green LED strips were #LS-AC60-6-GR, 525 nanometer wavelength (a shade of green), 8 W, 120 V, with a 120-degree beam angle. As described in The Brain’s Way of Healing, specific wavelengths of light can have profound restorative benefits in neurological conditions.
When used correctly, “cold” lasers (which do not produce heat, as their energy intensity is lower) and other sources of light have been shown to relieve inflammation, regulate DNA and RNA synthesis, and influence neurotransmitter production. However, just one nanometer in wavelength can be the difference between an effective therapy and inert placebo. Like other natural remedies for headaches, light therapy must be individualized. Additionally, its specifics for optimal efficacy are still being worked out.
The Importance Of Addressing Food Intolerances
For many years, medical literature has known that certain food intolerances and toxins can cause or contribute to migraines. A study of 60 people on an elimination diet found that wheat was the most common dietary trigger, contributing to migraines in 78 percent of cases. Two-thirds reacted to oranges, 45 percent were triggered by eggs, and 40 percent reacted to tea and/or coffee. Chocolate, beef, milk, yeast, corn, and cane sugar were trigger foods in roughly one-third of volunteers each.
Overall, 85 percent became free of headaches once they removed ten common trigger foods. The 25 percent of people who also had hypertension ended up with normal blood pressure once the study was over. If you’ve been questioning diet as a factor in your migraines, an elimination diet is worth a shot.
Other Natural Remedies For Headaches
Certain targeted supplements can provide significant holistic pain management if you suffer migraines.
One nutrient to consider is magnesium. Lab research has found that blood cell levels of magnesium are significantly lower in people with migraines. The same study showed that blood cells, but not plasma, magnesium rises with supplementation. Magnesium is shown to be effective in relieving migraines, but this may only be the case in people who are deficient. Tests that measure intracellular magnesium are needed to accurately determine who is deficient, as only under two percent of magnesium is found in the extracellular space.
A deficiency of magnesium can create cortical spreading depression, a problem with electrical activity in the brain that contributes to migraines. It also affects neurotransmitter production and blood clotting. Stress, poor intake, and genetic variations that raise magnesium needs may all contribute to deficiency.
The major B vitamins involved in homocysteine metabolism – B6, B12 and folate – may also help relieve migraines. A clinical trial with 52 people found that supplementation with these three nutrients halved the prevalence of migraine-related disability, from 60 percent to 30 percent within six months. Headache frequency, pain severity and homocysteine levels all fell in the supplementation group, but not in the placebo arm. Those with the C allele variation of the MTHFR gene, which affects folate metabolism, had a stronger response than people with the TT variation. Testing for MTHFR status is now widely available.
Additionally, a study on high-dose riboflavin (vitamin B2), using a similar number of volunteers, found that 400mg of the vitamin significantly reduced headache days. Fifty-nine percent of treated participants improved by at least 50 percent, compared to only 15 percent in the placebo group.
Coenzyme Q10 plays essential roles in regulating the inflammatory response and cellular energy production, processes often disrupted in migraines. For these reasons, supplementation with CoQ10 may help to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Like magnesium and B vitamins, CoQ10 can be useful for both holistic pain management and general health.
Melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, can trigger migraines in some and mildly relieve them in others. Some people may just get a mild headache after taking melatonin. If you take it, be cautious and stop if your symptoms worsen.
One study found that the frequency of migraines and tension-type headaches fell by around half and two-thirds, respectively, with 4mg of melatonin taken as prevention. A gentler way of increasing your melatonin levels is to reduce your exposure to blue light at night, which suppresses production of the hormone.
Although migraines are a debilitating disability for millions of people, there are many natural remedies for headaches that may benefit you. The key is finding the right therapies for you as an individual, so professional support with high-quality interventions is best.