German doctors have discovered a potentially novel way of helping patients with chronic pain disorders. They have installed overhead lighting that closely imitates a blue summer sky. According to the doctors, patients who have tried the therapy report feeling better and less affected by pain symptoms.
Chronic pain refers to the kind of pain that lingers long after a sudden illness or injury and often can’t be tracked to a specific source. Diseases like fibromyalgia are associated with this long-lasting pain, as are all the forms of arthritis. Chronic pain is prevalent in the U.S. and Canada and millions of people are diagnosed with it.
Dealing with chronic pain can be tiring and discouraging. Not surprisingly, many patients trying to live through each day with pain symptoms also develop depression. Anxiety is another common problem as symptoms stretch on for weeks, months, and even years. It can be difficult for patients to get a good night’s sleep, further disrupting their mental and physical state.
It’s precisely all of these symptoms combined that has likely contributed to the success of light therapy. Normally, a patient with chronic pain is treated with pain killers but pain killers don’t address all the other secondary symptoms of the condition. Light therapy can play a role in easing both the physical and the mental fall out from being in pain for long periods of time.
The doctors who tested out this new treatment were staffers at the German Pain Society. Their patients from the Comprehensive Centre for Pain Medicine at the Technical University of Munich were given the option of spending four weeks undergoing their usual treatments along with the bright light therapy. The light therapy used illumination levels that were four times those of normal office light. The research team also added more blue to the light spectrum so that the light more closely resembled a beautiful summer sky. While the study is ongoing—100 patients are set to continue the study for 18 months—so far, results are promising.
Here’s some more positive news on the light therapy front. A hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia has begun using light to reduce infections in surgical incisions. The method may seem a little unorthodox—clinicians shine a light up the nose of a patient for a few minutes before going into surgery—but it appears to be effective.
According to the hospital, the new disinfection method is expected to drop infections rates in surgical incisions by almost 40%—a significant amount. While it may sound strange to have light shone into your nostrils, this disinfection method comes without pain-causing needles or side effect-causing antibiotics.
Why does the therapy work? According to the Vancouver doctors, light kills off bacteria in a patient’s own body—a common source of infection. Before an operation, organisms floating in the air can land on a patient’s wound. By killing off the bacteria, the risk for developing an infection after surgery is reduced. When tried out at the hospital, the number of surgical site infections dropped from 85 to 50.
Sounds like light therapy is something to keep your eye on.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Lambert, V., “Light therapy offers hope for people with chronic pain,” London Daily Telegraph web site, August 30, 2013; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/alternativemedicine/10265375/Light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-for-chronic-pain.html, last accessed Sept. 2, 2013.
Carman, T., “Light therapy cuts post-surgery infections at Vancouver General Hospital (with video),” Vancouver Sun web site, Dec. 14, 2012; http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Light+therapy+cuts+post+surgery+infections+Vancouver+G