Chronic back pain sufferers, put down the Advil. New research has uncovered a surprising remedy—bright light therapy

By Mire Ketchiff
January 20, 2015
Corbis Images

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.

The study authors say more research is needed to figure out exactly how and why bright light therapy treats back pain. Until then, try these 5 Weird Remedies for Neck and Back Pain, the Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief, and (most importantly) the Sex Positions That Won't Hurt Your Back.

Comments (2)

January 17, 2019
Do you do a lot of repetitive work all day, either sitting OR standing? Then odds are, your back and spine are not getting the oxygen, blood, vitamins and minerals and nutrients it needs.They’re SLOWLY over time being starved.Trust me when I say pain is not the cause. It’s just a really obvious symptom. Pain is your back is screaming for help.The second thing that happens is as you get older you develop muscle imbalances. For instance, the hip flexors are too weak, while your thighs deal with bearing the load.Not good at all and...Next thing you know? Your back goes out of whack at the drop of a hat and lays you up for days. Your muscles wound tighter than a spring. Fortunately, there is a method that can unlock the back, restore balance and bring much needed relief: ==>
August 24, 2018
This 16-Minute, 8-Movement Method Relieves Years of Upper and Lower Back Pain: