Is Green Light Therapy Helpful In Treating Migraines?

Green light therapy is a type of light therapy that uses exposure to green LED lights to treat certain conditions. For instance, green light therapy is often touted as a way to help relieve migraine symptoms (via Well+Good). Migraines are intense reoccurring headaches that can cause severe throbbing pain and are often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light.

While it might seem counterproductive to use light therapy to treat migraines since these pulsing headaches are often triggered or worsened by bright light, a green light may have the opposite effect. Generally speaking, exposure to light can send signals from the retina to the visual cortex, which can cause sensitivity and exacerbate migraines. According to Dr. Deepti Agarwal, the director of interventional and integrative pain management at Case Integrative Health, however, there's a "specific band of green light [that] generates the smallest signal compared to other colors, so it's much less likely to exacerbate a migraine attack."

Green light therapy may reduce migraine pain

In fact, exposure to green light may even reduce migraine pain. According to a 2016 study published in the journal Brain, 80% of participants reported that their migraines worsened when exposed to every color of light except green, while the other 20% reported that exposure to green light actually improved their symptoms by reducing the intensity of their migraine pain. Another study published in Cephalalgia found that 29 migraine patients exposed to green light for 10 weeks saw a 60% reduction in the frequency of their migraines (via Shape).

But how exactly does green light therapy work for migraines? Rami Burstein, Ph.D., a professor of anesthesia and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, told Shape that green light therapy has a calming effect on the brain because the color green prompts a smaller stimulus response in the brain than other colors. "And when the brain is less active, it becomes calmer, which might help terminate the migraine attack and allow migraine patients to continue with their daily functions," Burstein said. All in all, while further research is still needed, green light therapy may help relieve migraine symptoms in some people by sending fewer stimuli to the brain.