Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023

The green light glasses that ease chronic pain

The green light glasses that ease chronic pain: Eyewear could be a drug-free alternative to painkillers, new study suggests

Wearing green-tinted glasses could be a new way to treat chronic pain.

New research suggests that when patients with fibromyalgia — a condition which affects around two million people in the UK, causing widespread pain and extreme tiredness — wear glasses with green lenses for four hours a day for two weeks, they need fewer painkillers.

Currently, antidepressants are used to relieve the pain of fibro-myalgia, as standard painkillers have little or no effect. But these drugs can also have side-effects, including loss of libido.

One theory is that green light, which falls in the middle of the light colour spectrum, triggers the release of natural painkiller-like chemicals in the body called enkephalins, and may also change the way the brain processes pain [File photo]

The new study, by Duke University in the U.S., involving 34 patients, suggests green light could be a drug-free alternative.

Patients who wore green eyeglasses were four times more likely to have reduced anxiety than those in other groups, who saw no reduction. Although their pain scores were the same, green eyeglass wearers used fewer painkillers, suggesting their symptoms were adequately controlled.

One theory is that green light, which falls in the middle of the light colour spectrum, triggers the release of natural painkiller-like chemicals in the body called enkephalins, and may also change the way the brain processes pain.

It could also help with pain because cells in the thalamus, the area of the brain that processes information from the eye, react less to green light.

The thalamus is the processing centre for a number of pain conditions and one theory is that green light may make it less active.

This is not the first time this coloured light has been suggested as a treatment for pain.

Patients who wore green eyeglasses were four times more likely to have reduced anxiety than those in other groups, who saw no reduction [File photo]

Last year, a U.S. study of 29 migraine patients who were exposed to green LED light strips for one to two hours a day for ten weeks saw a 60 per cent drop in the number of headaches. Monthly migraine attacks dropped from an average of 22.3 to 9.4, according to the study by the University of Arizona, published in the journal Cephalalgia.

In a new trial at Vedanta Research in North Carolina, in the U.S., 250 migraine patients will use a green light lamp for at least 30 minutes a day for six weeks to see if it reduces headache frequency and severity.

Green light is also being investigated as a treatment for arthritis pain in the knee and post-surgery pain, among other conditions.

Forty people are taking part in a ten-week clinical trial at Nova Scotia Health Authority in Canada looking at the effects of it on knee osteoarthritis. The trial involves daily exposure to green light-emitting LEDs.

Dr Andrew Dowson, clinical lead at the NHS East Kent and Bromley Headache Services, has been interested in how different coloured light affects migraines after carrying out research on the subject more than 20 years ago.

‘We looked at the range of wavelengths and both the red and blue ends of the spectrum were implicated in migraines,’ he says.

‘Green light is the middle of the spectrum and, therefore, likely to be more acceptable and less irritating to migraine sufferers.

‘This is very interesting but it would need more research on much bigger numbers of patients for it to be a proven concept and used as a treatment on patients.’

Migraines could be linked to rosacea, a skin condition that causes facial redness.

New research in the journal Frontiers in Medicine suggests that 65 per cent of people who get migraines also have rosacea, and 54 per cent of rosacea patients have migraines.

While the exact link is unclear, the two conditions share common triggers, such as stress and certain foods.

One suggestion is that a hormone called calcitonin, found at higher levels in both diseases, is implicated.

Identifying this link could lead to new treatments for patients, researchers said.

Mood food 

How foods can affect your state of mind. This week: Blueberries

Blueberries can boost mood within just two hours of eating, though you have to have a lot.

This was the finding of a study by Reading University in 2017 where volunteers were given a blueberry drink made from 30g of frozen blueberry powder (the equivalent of almost two cups of frozen blueberries) or a placebo that had the same amount of sugar and vitamin C.

One reason for this is that blueberries are high in a plant compound called anthocyanin that increases blood flow to the part of the brain associated with mood regulation, says Mahmoud Khodadi, a pharmacist based in Bradford, who has an interest in how food can affect the brain.

Try this

The PUMA x Modibodi sports leggings and shorts (from £28.50, modibodi.co.uk) can be worn during menstruation so you can exercise without worrying about leaks. They’re made from fast-drying fabric with a highly absorbent layer that holds as much as two to three tampons. 

Sleep easy 

Best sleep position for your condition. This week: Sleep on your side to enhance brain health

When we sleep, our brain clears out waste products generated from a day of activity — and it does this more effectively if you sleep on your side. At least, this is the case in animals, according to neuroscientists at Stony Brook University in the U.S, who think this probably translates to humans, too.

Their study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2015, was based on MRI scans.

‘The lateral sleep position is already the most popular in humans — and most animals.

‘It appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that build up while we’re awake,’ says Dr Maiken Nedergaard, who led the study.

Many conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, are linked to a build-up of proteins and other cellular waste in the brain, so the more you clear, the better.

When we sleep, our brain clears out waste products generated from a day of activity — and it does this more effectively if you sleep on your side

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