If you experience migraine attacks on the regular, you’ve probably spent hours searching the web for home remedies and headache hacks. You probably also know that bright lights and kaleidoscope vision don’t play nice together.
But there’s one type of light that’s rumored to dial back your migraine intensity when it’s used alongside traditional treatment options. We’re talking about green light for migraine.
Here’s everything we know so far, including recent research and how to safely try it for yourself.
First, we know what you’re thinking — isn’t light a migraine trigger? From bright sunshine to flickering fluorescents, light can be a major pain in the head for folks with migraine.
That sensitivity to light is called photophobia. It’s linked to the way your eye creates electrical signals responding to different types of light.
One study found that green light triggers less headache-inducing signals than other rays, including:
Like a sun lamp that may help treat seasonal affective disorder, green light therapy uses a certain type of light to ease the intensity of a health condition. In this case, green light aims to reduce the pain and frequency of migraine attacks.
But green light therapy isn’t as simple as swapping to a green light bulb in your bedside lamp. It requires a special strip lamp that emits a hyper-specific band of green light that’s set to the right intensity and frequency.
You’ll also need to spend a lot of time sitting by the light — all while keeping more aggressive light rays (we’re lookin’ at you, blue!) turned off.
Actually, it does. But it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.
In one small study involving people with migraine, 80 percent of the participants reported that green was the only light color that didn’t *worsen* their symptoms. And 20 percent of them said green light soothed the pain.
A study with animals also found that rats exposed to green LED lights seemed to experience less pain than rats deprived of green light therapy. Scientists concluded that green light might boost the brain’s pain-relieving abilities. But remember, this was an animal study. We can’t assume humans would get the same benefits.
Recently, another small study showed even more promising results. After 1 to 2 hours of green light exposure for 10 weeks, these people with migraine noticed a few changes:
- significantly fewer headache days per month
- improved intensity and duration of migraine attacks
- better general quality of life
Green light therapy seems to help some folks dial down their migraine frequency and severity. But more research is needed to pinpoint exactly how and when to use green light therapy as a clinical treatment for migraine.
A gentle reminder: Though the research is promising, it’s impossible to say whether green light therapy will soothe *your* migraine attacks. There’s no 100 percent guarantee. There also aren’t any established clinical guidelines for effective use.
If you’re looking to try it on your own, there are a few tips that can help you get started.
- Where to buy. A quick Google search will bring up a smattering of green bulbs, lights, and even tinted glasses. Just be sure to focus on migraine-specific lights and bulbs that emit *only* green rays.
- How to use. A clinical trial asks participants to use an LED green light strip for 2 hours a day in a dark room for 3 months. Since research is ongoing, it’s best to ask your doctor about frequency and length of time, though.
- Other green light methods. Green-tinted sunglasses might seem like an easy option, but there aren’t any studies to back ‘em up. Of course, there’s no harm in trying green glasses if you’re curious or your ophthalmologist gives you the *green* light.
Keep in mind that to avoid triggering or worsening migraine, you should only try green light therapy with the guidance of an ophthalmologist or neurologist.
Here are a few more nonpharmaceutical options to soothe what ails you.
- Take a chill pill. (Metaphorically, that is.) Stress is a super common migraine trigger. Pause to meditate, do some breathing exercises, or literally smell the roses the minute you feel a headache coming on.
- Keep a sleep schedule. Bad sleep habits are a recipe for headache-inducing stress and exhaustion. As much as you can, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go all-in with a bedtime routine that includes calming music, a warm bath, or relaxing reading.
- Move your body. But do it gently! A small study showed that yoga can help with migraine. Other slow-flow workouts include qigong and tai chi.
- Reach for magnesium. Did you know low magnesium levels can trigger migraine attacks? Nosh on magnesium-rich nuts, seeds, and greens to keep your levels in check.
- Apply pressure. Acupressure and acupuncture use pressure point release, which some peeps say reduces migraine pain.
Your environment also plays a major role in the severity of your migraine attacks. These tried-and-true tips are worth remembering at the onset of a headache.
- Dim the lights.
- Avoid loud sounds. (Some folks say white noise helps!)
- Breathe deeply through the pain.
- Move your body by taking a walk or doing a gentle yoga flow (if you’re able).
If your migraine attacks have suddenly gotten worse or are affecting your quality of life, talk with your doctor. A medical professional can help you hone in on a blend of medications and natural therapies that work for you.
Got migraine? We see you. And we know your sweetest relief might be a long nap in a dark room with blackout curtains.
Light might seem like the enemy, but recent research suggests that green light therapy may be able to help dial down your migraine duration and intensity. If you’re interested in using green light to temper your headaches, talk with your doctor about lamps, lightbulbs, and timing to figure out the best plan for you.