In my last blog, I described rat research, the results of which indicated that light therapy may have a positive impact on pain.
However, humans are also deserving of any benefit that might be had from light therapy, I am sure most would agree. And there are indications that humans can indeed benefit from light therapy.
Research presented earlier this year at the Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies described a small study, involving 10 subjects with fibromyalgia, who were exposed to bright-light treatment, the measured outcome being the degree of improvement in pain and function.
The subjects, all women, were allowed to sleep at home, maintaining their sleep schedule for one week, followed by an overnight stay in the sleep lab. In the sleep lab, the researchers assessed baseline function (Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire [FIQ]), pain sensitivity (heat threshold and tolerance), and circadian timing (dim-light melatonin onset).
After the night in the sleep lab, the women were randomly assigned to six days of either morning or evening light treatment, such that six subjects underwent self-administered home morning light treatment and four underwent evening light treatment. These interventions were achieved using light boxes one hour per day. Afterward, function, pain sensitivity, and circadian timing were once again measured.
No side effects were reported.
While both morning and evening light treatments led to improvements in function and pain sensitivity, it was noted that only morning light treatment led to what the researchers described as clinically meaningful improvement in function (defined as greater than 14 percent reduction in FIQ) and heat pain threshold.
Of interest also is that this study found that early-morning light exposure helped to advance the sleep timing of subjects, allowing them to fall asleep earlier. It is always interesting to find ways to improve sleep, which is known to have a positive impact on fibromyalgia symptoms, but also many other aspects of one’s life.
It certainly may be the case that earlier sleep times, and less restlessness during the night, leads to less “fibro fog” in the morning, better pain tolerance, decreasing pain and improving function.
Of course, how one will ever be able to perform a placebo-controlled clinical trial of light therapy for fibromyalgia is an entirely different matter.