Green Light Therapy for Migraines

Photophobia is a common symptom associated with Migraine. More than 80% of migraine attacks are associated with and exacerbated by light sensitivity. Research by Harvard researcher Dr. Rami Burstein on the neurobiology of photophobia led to the discovery of pain modulating effects of green light. Of all light to which migraine sufferers are exposed, green light at 525 nanometer wavelength worsens migraine significantly less than all other colors of light. Green light can actually reduce pain by about 20%.

The connection between photophobia and migraine is because the same thalamic trigeminovascular neurons that relay nociceptive pain signals from the dura to the cortex during migraine are the same bundle of neurons that transmits information about light from the eye to the brain.

This discovery will hopefully lead to an effective non pharmacological option to help decrease the disability associated with migraines. Current limitations are the high cost of light bulbs that emit this specific narrow band of green light wavelength. Dr. Burstein is working on developing an affordable light bulb as well as sunglasses that block out all light except for the narrow band of pure green light.

Burstein R, Noseda R, Fulton AB. Neurobiology of Photophobia. J Neuroophthalmol. 2019 Mar;39(1):94-102. doi: 10.1097/WNO.0000000000000766. PMID: 30762717; PMCID: PMC6383812.

Martin LF, Patwardhan AM, Jain SV, Salloum MM, Freeman J, Khanna R, Gannala P, Goel V, Jones-MacFarland FN, Killgore WD, Porreca F, Ibrahim MM. Evaluation of green light exposure on headache frequency and quality of life in migraine patients: A preliminary one-way cross-over clinical trial. Cephalalgia. 2021 Feb;41(2):135-147. doi: 10.1177/0333102420956711. Epub 2020 Sep 9. PMID: 32903062; PMCID: PMC8034831.

By: Andrew Chan, PA