Migraines Given the Green Light (Therapy)

Credit: University of Arizona Health Sciences/Kris Hanning

Migraines affect 1 billion people worldwide. It is a frequent cause of absence from work and school. Despite multiple treatment options, the majority of patients are unable to adequately manage their pain. Therefore, researchers at Arizona Health Sciences seem to have discovered a greener way of managing these headaches. 

Green Light Therapy For Migraines

The study, published in the journal Cephalalgia, showed green light therapy reduced the frequency and intensity of headaches among the participants. This is the first study to evaluate the effects of green light as a preventive therapy for migraines. 

In this trial, we treated green light as a drug. 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.

Dr. Mohab Ibrahim 

The study recruited 29 participants. Seven of whom had episodic migraines and the rest had chronic migraines.

Patients were exposed to white light for 1 to 2 hours a day for a duration of 10 weeks. After a 2-week break, patients were exposed to a green light for 10 weeks.

Participants had the freedom to continue with their current treatment or start a new regimen as per their physician’s approval.

Patient-reported surveys helped evaluate the frequency and intensity of headaches and moreover, the change in the quality of life.

Migraines – More Than Just a Headache

Migraines are the third most prevalent disease in the world, ahead of diabetes and asthma. Severe headaches, photophobia, nausea, and vomiting are some of its features. Those suffering report decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, and an overuse of pain medications. 

Based on the headache frequency, migraines can be classified as chronic or episodic. Chronic migraines are defined as 15 or more headache days per month for 3 or more months. While episodic migraines are those that occur for fewer than 15 days per month. 

Green Light Therapy Reduces Headaches by 60%

Compared to white light, Green Light Therapy significantly reduced the number of headache days per month in both chronic and episodic migraine patients.

Patients also reported reduced intensity of the headaches, improved sleep, increased productivity, and an overall improvement in the quality of life.

The use of a nonpharmacological therapy such as green light can be of tremendous help to a variety of patients that either do not want to be on medications or do not respond to them.

Dr. Amol Patwardhan

Dr. Mohab Ibrahim, a lead author of the study, believes the low cost of green light therapy makes it an affordable option for areas with limited resources.

The small sample size is a limitation to the study. Therefore, a larger study needs to be conducted in order to establish the effectiveness of green light therapy.


Martin LF, Patwardhan AM, Jain SV, et al. Evaluation of green light exposure on headache frequency and quality of life in migraine patients: A preliminary one-way cross-over clinical trial [published online ahead of print, 2020 Sep 9]. Cephalalgia. 2020;333102420956711. doi:10.1177/0333102420956711


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