This post was originally going to be about the waste in the U.S. health care system, but it is Christmas and Hanukah, and who wants a downer story at the holiday season?
Serendipitously I came across a “do you believe it?” story that was much more fun to write. Several research groups, notably at the University of Arizona and Harvard, have found that exposure to green light can relieve pain. The Harvard group found that while most migraine sufferers cannot tolerate light (the medical term for this is photophobia), green light is much less annoying than other colors, and may even relieve the headaches. The group at Arizona found 2-3 years ago that rats exposed to green light were much better able to tolerate heat on their paws than rats exposed to other light or left in the dark. It has also been found that people who are surrounded by greenery are healthier than others. I assumed this reflected a generally healthier environment and lifestyle, but who knows. There is some experimental data suggesting that green stimulates the body’s own (“endogenous”) opioid system.
Dr. Mohab Ibrahim, the lead researcher at U Arizona has recently done a small study with 25 chronic migraine sufferers who had numerous headaches that interfered with their quality of life. They spent two hours daily in a dark room exposed to green lights, and all had major improvement in the frequency and severity of their migraines. Some got relief within a few days of starting while in others it took weeks. All had their usual headache pattern return when the light treatment was stopped.
Since sitting in a room looking at green light two hours a day is hardly convenient, alternatives are being studied. One (totally uncontrolled) study has found that wearing green-tinted eyeglasses has a beneficial effect on relieving chronic pain. While I am a great skeptic when it comes to “alternative therapy,” using green to help relieve pain appeals to me. It is cheap, it is totally safe, and it has just enough data behind it to be plausible.
Try it – you just may like it. Happy holidays.
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