Light Therapy: An Alternative to Opioids

Light therapy is a new form of treatment for chronic pain and an alternative to taking opioids for pain management. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada have been searching for alternatives to Opioid Chronic Pain Treatment as dependency and misuse issues continue to grow worldwide. It is now evident that alternative treatment will be the future of medicine due to the deaths and lives ruined from opiate treatment. According to the CDC, “from 1994 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids, and today, half of all opioid deaths involve a prescription.” These are alarming numbers when you consider the sheer size of the population who suffer from chronic pain.

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New research suggests light therapy helps combat chronic pain

Light Therapy for Chronic Pain Relief

According to UPI.com “Optogenetics uses light to control neurons, in the case of pain by turning them off when light shines on them.” After going over the specifics, the therapy is non-invasive and highly technical. Initial tests were done on mice bred specifically with light-sensitive neurons in a part of the brain responsible for pain transmission. Once this area is exposed to the yellow light, the neurons began reducing their bioelectric activity, which in turn shut off the neuron and its ability to produce pain. The most successful part of the experiment was that researchers were able to determine that the pain relieving effects persisted after the treatment had concluded.

Light Therapy Research

In a particular case covered by the Wall Street Journal, Wanda Cwiecek began treatment for myeloma, which is a cancer of the blood. She reported an inability to sleep, feeling emotionally drained, and that her quality of life was deteriorating.  After a few rounds of Chemo, Wanda said extreme fatigue and feelings of depression that affect many cancer patients. With nothing left to lose, she decided to try the experimental light therapy. She would sit near a special box that emitted an intense white light in her apartment. She soon felt improvements. “Life got easier,” she says. It may be a small sample size, but it is always positive when someone affected so profoundly by chronic pain has had some improvement in their quality of life.

The Future of Chronic Pain Treatment

Chronic pain, side effects from cancer, and fatigue are all ailments for which light therapy could provide relief, but there is still a lot of research left for this new treatment before we can start getting hopes up. Researchers are still unsure as to why light seems to give patients relief, but initial thoughts take into consideration that people’s circadian rhythms and the 24-hour biological cycle that influences sleep patterns are affected by light. Light therapy can help people suffering who do not usually get a lot of exposure to the sun. While the future is uncertain for this treatment, there is hope that one day we will be able to help end our dependency for prescription opioids for a noninvasive and non-addictive treatment.

Learn more about other alternatives to opioid treatment for chronic pain by reading our article Topical Compounds for Chronic Pain Relief and Why You Shouldn’t Try An Opioid For Pain Relief.

Have you considered light therapy for pain relief? Tell us why or why not in the comments below!

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One Response

  1. Lurraine
    December 15, 2016

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