Pain specialist, Prof Thomas Tolle is starting a new trial using specially designed lighting that imitates a blue summer sky as a complementary therapy for chronic pain patients. Prof Tolle has cautioned that it is too early to produce results, however initial signs are good.
Chronic pain is a worldwide problem, affecting 14 million people in the UK alone (according to the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition, CPPC). The term chronic pain refers to a pain that persists beyond the normal time for healing or an on-going pain that occurs due to a disease such as fibromyalgia.
Managing such pain requires more than painkillers alone. Research shows that 30% of those suffering with chronic pain will have a depressive disorder, 30% will have an anxiety disorder and 60% will have difficulty sleeping.
Due to the multifaceted nature of chronic pain, a multi-pronged approach is often required. Treatments range from cognitive behavioural therapy to spinal cord stimulation. Prof Tolle hopes to add light therapy as an additional complementary therapy to treat the condition.
The study itself will involve patients undergoing their usual treatments bathed in light. The light itself has been tweaked to contain more blue, making it easier on the eye – it also offers the feeling of a sunny summer sky.
Light boxes are already used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but this is the first time continuous bright-light therapy has been tried for chronic pain. The theory behind its use for chronic pain is that a lack of sleep often makes our perception of pain worse and when our body clock, or our circadian rhythm, is disrupted sensations of pain and depression can worsen.
The light therapy aims to stimulate the retina and regulate sleep in a natural way to see if this can improve moods and reduce pain. Prof Tolle will be monitoring 100 patients over 18 months at his clinic and says his team will look at anything that can help that is not a drug and has no side effects.
If you suffer from chronic pain, exploring alternative and complementary therapies could help you cope with symptoms. To find out more, please browse our Therapy Topics page.
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