Pain is a common and widespread issue, with 20% of American adults suffering from chronic pain from conditions such as migraines, headaches, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Although traditional treatments such as physical therapy and cognitive behavior therapy can be time-consuming and not always successful, opioids have become the go-to treatment for chronic and acute pain in the US despite its side effects and potential for addiction.
However, a new study by Padma Gulur, MD, a professor of anesthesiology and population health at Duke University School of Medicine, has uncovered the potential of green light exposure as a viable treatment for pain management. Gulur’s research team found that out of the 34 participants with fibromyalgia who were randomized to wear various shades of eyeglasses four hours a day for two weeks, a majority of the patients who wore the green eyeglasses showed higher odds of a 10% decline in opioid use, demonstrating that their pain was adequately controlled. This exciting breakthrough has been met with an international response, with patients and clinicians from around the world wanting to know more.
Gulur and her team used commercially available green eyeglasses, and the wavelengths that were most beneficial for the participants were found to be on either end of the spectrum, between 490s to 510s, and the 570s. Light is known to impact many aspects of our life, such as wound healing, mood, and circadian rhythm, and the ability of green light to impact pain may be rooted in why being in nature feels so good. However, further research is needed to understand the exact mechanism of how green light exposure reduces pain.
Larger studies are also needed to assess the effect of green light exposure on different chronic pain conditions, and to determine the optimal dose and wavelength of light exposure. Overall, green light exposure is an exciting new potential treatment for pain management that is affordable and has few side effects or risk of addiction. With further investigation and research, green light exposure may offer a much-needed relief to those suffering from chronic pain.