Throbbing, pulsing pain. Waves of nausea. Intense sensitivity to light and sound. Vision loss… The list goes on and on. If you are one of the 4 million people who suffer from chronic migraine headaches, you know that they can be completely debilitating—often lasting for hours or even days at a time, coming and going over the course of months or years.
The problem of misidentification and treatment
More than “just a headache,” migraines are a chronic condition that many wrestle with for a lifetime. With no clear consensus on either the cause or best course of treatment—and many of the most commonly prescribed medications having side effects that rival the negative effects of the migraine itself—many migraine sufferers feel hopeless that they will ever experience true relief.
A common barrier to receiving proper treatment is misdiagnosis—or misidentification of the underlying cause. With over 300 different kinds of headaches and an equal number of potential causes, being able to differentiate between them is one of the most important things for a clinician to do when determining treatment for someone suffering from chronic head or neck pain.
If the cause of the migraine (or head/neck pain in general) is determined to be nerve or inflammation-related, cold lasers or LLLT (Low Level Laser Therapy) could be the solution that finally provides relief—with none of the disruptive side-effects that make other treatment options less preferable.
Studies show laser therapy offers relief
Laser therapy has long been used to combat pain caused by inflammation. However, only more recently has it been considered a potential treatment plan for those suffering from chronic migraines, as there is still so much that science does not know about migraines themselves and what causes them.
A vast number of clinical trials have been performed in order to assess the potential benefits of laser therapy for the treatment of migraines.
A 2018 study revealed that laser therapy treatment for migraines was able to reduce the number of symptomatic days, decrease pain intensity and reduce the number of additional medications/treatments that subjects had to take. One specific area that LLLT was extremely helpful compared to other treatments was in reducing the sleep disturbance caused by migraines.
Another study found that laser therapy increased serotonin and blood flow in patients with temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). All of the study participants reported pain relief, with the average pain score decreasing from a 9.1 out of 10 to a 3.3, with elevated serotonin levels persisting for three days following laser therapy treatment. While TMJ and migraines are different, these results offer encouragement to those seeking to treat head and neck disorders through low-risk methods such as LLLT.
Benefits of laser therapy in migraine treatment
Laser therapy is a non-invasive, non-toxic, and pain-free solution to chronic pain. While standard medications offered to those suffering from migraines typically do little to increase the overall quality of life, laser therapy provides hope that freedom from chronic migraines can be found without paying an equally unsatisfactory price.
Loeb LM, Amorim RP, Mazzacoratti MDGN, Scorza FA, Peres MFP. Botulinum toxin A (BT-A) versus low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in chronic migraine treatment: a comparison. Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 2018;76(10):663-667. doi:10.1590/0004-282X20180109
Smitherman TA, Burch R, Sheikh H, Loder E. The prevalence, impact, and treatment of migraine and severe headaches in the United States: a review of statistics from national surveillance studies. Headache. 2013;53(3):427-436. doi:10.1111/head.12074
Shukla D, Muthusekhar MR. Efficacy of low-level laser therapy in temporomandibular disorders: A systematic review. Natl J Maxillofac Surg. 2016;7(1):62-66. doi:10.4103/0975-5950.196127