Can Light Therapy Cure Back Pain?
Chronic back pain sufferers, put down the Advil. New research has uncovered a surprising remedy—bright light therapy
As anyone who's experienced back pain knows, it's the worst. Every move you make seems to aggravate the soreness, so more often than not you wind up stuck in bed with only an arsenal of heating pads, ice packs, and aspirin to keep you company. And still, the best treatment is the most frustrating-time.
But now researchers have discovered a surprising alternative solution for stubborn back soreness: bright light therapy, which is better known as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (Could You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?)
Just three sessions of bright light therapy significantly reduces back pain and symptoms of depression caused by back pain, according to research in the journal Pain Medicine. The study authors didn't compare light therapy to the sun, but the light intensity used was 5,000 lux, or about half the strength of natural daylight (though that varies on time of day and cloud cover). So it's not inconceivable that spending more time outside could also benefit back aches. In fact, other research has confirmed that sunlight has pain-relieving benefits: People recuperating from surgery in a sunny room took 22 percent less pain meds per hour than those in darker rooms, one study found.