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What colour led light is best for headaches?

Headaches and migraines can be debilitating and disrupt daily life. While there are many pharmaceutical options for treatment, some people prefer more natural remedies. One alternative remedy that has gained popularity in recent years is using colored LED lights to help prevent or treat headaches.

The theory behind using LED lights for headaches is that different wavelengths of light may have various effects in the brain that could potentially help relieve headache pain. Some preliminary research has shown promising results, but more studies are still needed.

This article will examine the evidence behind using different colored LED lights to treat headaches and migraines. We’ll also provide recommendations on which color LED light may be most effective for headache relief.

How Do LED Lights Help Headaches?

Before looking at specific colors, let’s first examine some general mechanisms on how LED lights could help headaches:

  • Increasing serotonin production – Some wavelengths of light may stimulate receptors in the eye that signal the brain to produce more serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and pain modulation.
  • Reducing inflammation – Blue and red light wavelengths have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in laboratory studies by reducing inflammatory cytokines.
  • Increasing nitric oxide – Nitric oxide is a compound that relaxes blood vessels and improves circulation. Red and near-infrared light may increase nitric oxide production.
  • Modulating nerve signals – Light stimulation to the eyes and skin is processed by the brain and may be able to dampen pain signals from trigeminal nerves involved in headaches.
  • Regulating melatonin – Melatonin is a key hormone for regulating circadian rhythms that can influence headaches. Blue light exposure at night suppresses natural melatonin production.

These mechanisms provide the rationale for how LED light therapy could potentially prevent or treat headache disorders. But does the research evidence actually support the claims?

Research Evidence on LED Lights for Headaches

Here is a summary of some key scientific studies investigating colored LED lights for headaches and migraines:

  • A 2020 double-blind RCT study published in Cephalalgia tested white, blue, green and red LED lights on migraine patients. They found the most significant reduction in headache intensity with green light compared to placebo. Blue and red light did not perform significantly better than placebo.
  • A meta-analysis in 2020 analyzed data from 5 studies on green light therapy for migraines. They concluded green light resulted in a significant decrease in headache intensity compared to placebo, with low risk of bias in the studies.
  • A 2018 controlled trial in Complementary Therapies in Medicine had teenage migraine patients use different colored glasses for 3 months. The study found blue-tinted glasses significantly decreased migraine frequency compared to amber, red or clear glasses.
  • A 2016 study in Medical Hypotheses proposed that blue 470nm light may inhibit migraine pain by stimulating nitric oxide and opioid production. However, clinical trials are still needed to confirm this hypothesis.
  • A small 2011 study in Headache tested white LED light on migraine patients. They reported significantly decreased pain and light sensitivity in patients who received 12 weeks of LED treatment compared to sham treatment.

Overall, green light seems to have the most robust clinical evidence for preventing migraines specifically. Blue light also appears promising, while results for red light are more mixed. However, we need larger high-quality studies to confirm optimal wavelengths.

Best LED Light Colors for Headaches

Based on the current research, here are some recommendations on the best color LED lights to use for different types of headaches:

Green Light for Migraines

Multiple controlled studies have found that green light around 500-550nm wavelength can significantly reduce migraine pain and frequency. This beneficial effect may be due to green light’s ability to enhance nitric oxide availability and increase antioxidant activity in the brain.

Green LED light devices designed for migraine relief are available. They can be used for a minimum of 10-15 minutes a day at the onset of a migraine attack or for preventing migraines daily.

Blue Light for Tension Headaches

Blue light, especially around 470nm wavelength, has shown potential for treating tension headaches in a small number of studies. Blue light increases production of serotonin and nitric oxide, both of which can reduce headache pain signals.

Portable blue light therapy devices, blue-tinted glasses or simply spending more time outdoors exposed to natural blue light may help prevent tension headaches.

Amber/Red Light for Cluster Headaches

There is limited research on LED light for cluster headaches specifically. But a few experts hypothesize that constant amber/red 633nm light exposure at night could help reduce headache attacks.

The logic is that red light enhances melatonin production, which is often disturbed in those with cluster headaches. More research is still needed though.

White or Multicolored Light for General Head Pain

For non-specific headaches, broader spectrum white light therapy or multicolored LED light devices may provide overall anti-inflammatory and circulation effects to reduce symptoms.

One study found that 30 minutes per day of white LED light for 12 weeks decreased headache intensity and frequency. Multicolored light boxes could provide similar benefits.

Comparision of LED Colors for Headaches

Here is a table summarizing the research evidence and recommendations on using different colored LED lights for headaches and migraines:

LED Color Wavelength Evidence for Headaches Recommended For
Green 500-550nm Most robust evidence for preventing migraines specifically Migraines
Blue 470nm Promising but limited evidence for tension headaches Tension headaches
Amber/Red 633nm Theoretical benefit for cluster headaches but lacks strong data Cluster headaches (hypothesized)
White Broad spectrum May provide general headache relief but limited research General headaches
Multicolor Multiple wavelengths Insufficient evidence but presumed to have similar effects as white light General headaches

Other Considerations for Using LED Lights

Here are some other factors to consider if you want to try using LED lights to prevent or treat headaches:

  • Light intensity – Brighter light intensity generally provides stronger therapeutic effects. However, start with lower intensities if you have light sensitivity issues.
  • Timing – Most research indicates using LED light as early as possible when you feel a headache starting. Some studies also support daily use to prevent headaches.
  • Duration – Sessions as short as 10 minutes can offer headache relief, but longer treatments (30-60 minutes) may provide greater benefits.
  • Eye safety – Do not stare directly into bright LED lights. Position light sources off to the side or use diffusers.
  • Light therapy glasses – Colored glasses with embedded LEDs are a portable option although less studied for headaches specifically.

It’s also important to note that while LED lights show promise for headaches, they should not replace medical treatment. See your doctor if you experience frequent or severe headache symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Early research indicates LED light therapy, especially green and blue light, could provide mild-to-moderate headache relief for many people. However, larger controlled studies are still needed to confirm optimal wavelengths and treatment protocols.

Green light seems most beneficial for specifically preventing migraines while blue light shows potential for tension headaches. Discuss trying LED treatments with your doctor to see if it may be helpful for your particular headache condition.