woman in front of a computer with her hands on her head in pain

Did you know Low Level Light Therapy is one of the Natural Remedies for Migraines?

Before we discuss LLLT as one of the natural remedies for migraines, let’s talk about migraines themselves.

As a Neurologist, I have treated a lot of patients with headaches. Diagnosing patients with headache can be challenging at times since there are so many different types/causes of headaches. Some of these headache ‘categories’ include:

  • Migraine headache
  • Tension type headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Hemicrania continua
  • Secondary headaches: (headaches which are secondary to another medical condition). These underlying medical conditions include:
    * mass lesion in the brain
    * temporal arteritis and/or other vasculitis
    * sleep apnea (waking headaches)
    * aneurysms
    * arterial-venous malformations
    * infections (such as Lyme, Shingles)
    * idiopathic intra-cranial hypertension
    * concussion

Migraine headaches can be especially challenging to treat since ‘Migraine’ is so much more than just a headache. Migraine is a complex neural-vascular pain syndrome (this means that the nervous system, as well as the blood vessels of the brain, are involved in the pathogenesis of this syndrome); encompassing numerous symptoms as each episode evolves through multiple phases.

There are four migraine stages: Prodrome, Aura, Headache, Postdrome. Not every migraine consists of all four stages.

I. Prodrome: warning signs that a migraine is beginning; also called the premonitory phase. The prodrome typically precedes the headache by several hours or even several days. Approximately 1/3 of migraineurs experience a prodrome. Prodromal symptoms/warning signs are myriad and include: fatigue, depression, irritability, food cravings, yawning, muscle tenderness, neck stiffness, photophobia, phonophobia, osmophobia, anhedonia, sleepiness, increased frequency of urination, difficulty speaking, hyperactivity, constipation or diarrhea.

II.  Aura: transient focal neurological perturbations which originate from the hypothalamus, brainstem, and/or cortex. Migraine aura typically lasts 5 – 60 minutes. Approximately ¼ of migraneurs experience an aura. Aura is caused by cortical spreading depression (CSD), a slowly propagating wave of depolarization/excitation followed by hyperpolarization/inhibition in cortical neurons and glia. Aura symptoms include: hypersensitivity to feel and touch (allodynia), aphasia (impairment in language), auditory hallucinations, confusion, dizziness and/or vertigo, decrease in hearing, temporary paralysis or weakness of one side of the body (hemi-plegia or hemi-paresis), olfactory hallucinations, tingling/paresthesias, numbness, burning sensations of the body. There are numerous visual aura symptoms including: presence of wavy lines, blind spots, blurry vision, partial loss of sight, flashes of light that streak across the visual field (phosphenes), scotoma (regional loss of vision), hemianopsia (loss of half of the visual field). There is even a rare aura symptom known as “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome, in which there is metamorphosia. This means that an individual experiences a visual distortion of body image and perspective (the migraineur knows that the distortion is not real). This aura symptom most often occurs in children. Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was himself a migraine sufferer.

III. Headache: begins with activation of meningeal nociceptors (pain receptors) at the origin of the trigemino-vascular system. Pain throbs and intensifies with increase in intracranial pressure with associated nausea, vomiting, abnormal sensitivity to light (photophobia), sound (phonophobia), and smell (osmophobia). Also abnormal skin sensitivity (allodynia) and muscle tenderness. Routine physical activity may aggravate the pain of migraine. The headache phase of migraine typically lasts from 4 -72 hours (if left untreated).

IV. Postdrome: may last up to 24 hours after the attack. You may feel drained and washed out. Other symptoms experienced in the postdrome phase include: confusion, moodiness, dizziness, weakness, sensitivity to light and sound, or sometimes even elation.

Potential Migraine Triggers:

  • -Red wine
  • -Skipping meals
  • -Changes in weather and/or barometric pressure
  • -Sleep disturbances (sleep deprivation or sleep excess)
  • -Stress
  • -Hormonal factors (e.g. menarche, menstruation, post-partum, menopause, oral contraceptive use)
  • -Certain foods (e.g. aged cheeses, salty foods, processed foods)
  • -Sensory overload (e.g. flashing lights, strong odors, loud sounds)
  • -Intense physical exertions, including sexual activity

Low Level Light Therapy Can Help.

Migraine is a recurrent disorder affecting approximately 12% of the population. It frequently starts in childhood, particularly around puberty; and affects women more than men (3:1 female-to-male ratio).

Migraine is a major cause of world-wide disability. More than ¾ of migraine sufferers can’t function normally during an (untreated) migraine attack. The impact of the burden of migraine, however, is not limited to the migraine attacks themselves. Migraine sufferers have an increased risk for other physical and psychiatric conditions as well. Migraine is a truly devastating condition for many people. This is especially true since Migraine most commonly affects individuals during a highly productive period of their lives (attacks are most frequent between the ages of 22 and 55). Perhaps even more devastating is the fact that Migraine afflicts a significant percentage of children. Half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12.

Low Level Light Therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of Migraine. Not only does LLLT diminish inflammation in the body (which is linked to the pain of migraine); it is also utilized to treat many of the co-morbid features of Migraine (such as sleep deprivation). A significant percentage of migraine sufferers do not seek treatment for their condition. Some of these individuals are concerned about medication side effects; others are unaware of the multiple options that are available to help prevent and treat migraine pain. If you are a migraine sufferer and want to learn more about how LLLT may help alleviate some of the pain and suffering associated with your Migraine, then please call me, Dr. Candice Perkins, for a free phone consultation.