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Light therapy may offer a non-pharmacological treatment for pain

Harold Mandel's picture
Pain treatment

Researchers say there is a great deal of promise in light therapy for the treatment of chronic pain.


Chronic pain can be very debilitating. Drugs to treat pain carry with them the risk of a myriad of adverse side effects including addiction, tolerance and withdrawal. Non-pharmacological natural remedies to treat pain are therefore highly desirable.

Light therapy holds a great deal of promise for chronic pain

MedicalXpress has reported on research from the University of Arizona wherein researchers have come to the conclusion that light therapy holds a great deal of promise for chronic pain. This is very significant in view of the fact that greater than 100 million people across the United States suffer from chronic pain.

Chronic pain undermines productivity and quality of life. The emotional well being of people is torn apart by chronic pain. Many people suffering from chronic pain die prematurely from suicide or from accidental overdoses of drugs.

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Researchers from the University of Arizona say they have found a non-pharmacological approach which offers promise for the management of chronic pain which is treatment with green light-emitting diodes (LED). In this study rats that were suffering from neuropathic pain that were covered in green LED displayed more tolerance for thermal and tactile stimulus than the rats that were not covered in green LED. There were no side effects and no tolerance with this treatment.

Chronic pain is a very serious condition which afflicts millions of people

Mohab Ibrahim, who is a UA assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology and lead author of this study, highlights that chronic pain is a very serious condition which afflicts millions of people. The opioids which are often used to treat chronic pain are generally associated with very serious side effects. Green LED treatment offers a safer and effective approach to this problem.

Rajesh Khanna, a UA associate professor of Pharmacology and senior author of the study, has said although it is clear green LED has pain relieving qualities it is not exactly clear how this works. From early studies in rats it appears levels of circulating endogenous opioids are increased by green light. Further studies are needed to determine if this happens in people.

This study has been published in the journal Pain. Pain is a serious problem in the USA with between 261 to 300 billion dollars spent a year to manage pain. LED light therapy offers hope as a stand alone treatment for pain or when used together with other treatments which includes physical therapy or low-dose analgesics.