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Episode 181: Using Color for Migraine Relief

Video Highlights

- Color lenses and migraine relief.
- Color lenses influence performance and pain.
- Color lenses and brain function.

Today we’re going to talk about the color green and why I love my job.

One of the coolest things about my job is I get to look at a ton of research as it is coming out from researchers around the world. Having spent many, many years now in the rehabilitation sports performance world, one of the things that we have often talked about is the impact of color on brain function.

Now, there’s been ideas around this for many, many years, hundreds of years. In fact, back in the early 1900’s, they talked about these different forms of color therapy. To be generally honest, when the researchers looked at most of that they’ve gone, “Eh, not really.” Early this year in Brain, which is a really well known research journal, some researchers discovered something really cool.

They started looking at migraine sufferers, people who had significant, what is called, photophobia or an inability to deal with light. That is actually one of the most powerful and important symptoms in people with migraines because the inability to deal with light actually leads to a lot of the things that they wind up having to do. They have to say in dark rooms, and they can’t stand sound, etc.

Now, what happened in this particular study is they were looking at the impact of different colors of light on the brain. What they found in their testing was that the color green actually decreased pain in about 80% of migraine sufferers. I thought that was really cool.

It didn’t get rid of the migraine but it decreased their pain somewhere usually between 15 and 20% just by being exposed to a narrow band of green light. When the researchers saw this they said, “Well, what in the heck is going on with that?” They then did some additional studies looking at brain activation, and what they found was that the color green actually caused the fewest amount of electrical signals in the eye and in the brain compared to all other colors.

Basically they said, “Hey, green seems to be the most neutral of colors and it decreases brain activation,” which is really important in migraines because often in migraines we’re seeing massive amounts of stimulation going on especially in the beginning.

This to me is a really cool finding and it exemplifies what people have been seeing anecdotally and experientially around the world for many years. If you’re an athlete and you play outdoors, one of the things that you may want to do is talk to a Sports Vision Optometrist or Ophthalmologist because there are different colors that actually can change how well you can see in different conditions.

For instance, the color amber is often great for increasing sharpness of detail. You’ll see shooters and other people using that. Sometimes green can be really useful if you’re playing golf. Rose-colored lenses, I know that sounds funny, but reds, pinks, those can often be useful depending on different lighting condition where maybe you need more contrast.

We are actually starting to learn that color really does matter. As you start to think about this, number one, if you are a migraine sufferer, there’s no magic fix for finding the exact wavelength of light right now that you need but we often will just have people try, “Hey, put on green glasses. If you start to have some photophobia occurring and light’s bothering you, try this. See if it helps.”

Again from there, if you work in different conditions, you play sports in different conditions, think about changing the color of the lenses that you currently use or talking to someone that knows about this because you may find that it solves a lot of issues that you have.

I said, I started off this by saying, “We’re going to talk about the color green and why I love my job.” We are learning more and more about the brain every single day. There are so many small, seemingly small factors that can be incredibly powerful and that’s one of the reasons I love doing what it is that we do here. We dig into this research, we try and go, “Okay, what’s a practical way to start to implement it.”

Imagine putting on a pair of green sunglasses or looking at green light for a brief period of time being a potential therapeutic benefit in someone with severe migraine that’s not a drug, it’s not a surgery, it’s nothing that costs very much money.

That, to me, is a fantastic tool that we can start to look at to help people.

Give this a shot. If you have any questions about it, let us know. Otherwise, talk to someone in your area that understands a little bit about color and vision.

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