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The Latest Migraine News: Green Light, Coffee & COVID-19

Migraine News in 2021

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

In the modern age of migraine treatment, new research is being released almost weekly. In this article, we’ll help you keep tabs on the latest migraine news and what it could potentially mean for you. Make sure to bookmark this page and check back often, as we’ll update it frequently throughout the year.

Here are the latest migraine news stories in 2021.

A new study suggests regular exposure to green light reduces headache days in migraineurs.

Managing migraine without prescription pharmaceuticals looks more possible everyday, thanks to narrow-band green light therapy. In fact, a new study suggests that regular exposure to green light may reduce headache days significantly in both episodic and chronic migraine patients.

To execute this study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Fabrice Martin-Laurent recruited 29 migraine patients (seven episodic, 22 chronic). These participants were exposed to white light emitting diodes for one to two hours daily over the course of 10 weeks. After a two-week rest period, they were then exposed to green light emitting diodes daily over the course of another ten weeks. The primary outcome measured during the course of the 22 weeks was the number of headache days per month, with secondary outcomes including intensity and frequency of headache, sleep quality, and work performance.

In surveys, both groups of participants reported that white light produced no significant change in headache days. However, exposure to green light emitting diodes resulted in a remarkable decrease in headache days for both chronic (22.3 to 9.4) and episodic (7.9 to 2.4) migraine patients. Perhaps most importantly, green light emitting diodes proved completely safe, producing zero reported side effects. The 29 migraineurs also reported that green light exposure improved quality of life while decreasing headache intensity.

These findings build on foundational research by Dr. Rami Burstein, who originally discovered that a specific, narrow band of green light actually reduces migraine light sensitivity during attacks.

What might this mean for your migraine?

Pharmaceutical treatment can be ineffective or only marginally effective for many migraine patients and off limits or unavailable to others. Many migraineurs also experience adverse side effects as a result of treatment, leading to a “lesser of two evils” scenario. If either of these statements is true for you and your migraine, this study adds to a steadily growing body of research demonstrating that narrow-band green light therapy is viable, safe, effective, and free of side effects.

It’s also very accessible, thanks to the Allay Lamp: a portable, chargeable solution that brings you the exact narrow band of green light shown to soothe photophobia and reduce headache days in the studies. Non-invasive, and easy to use, the lamp makes it possible for you to take relief with you wherever you go, so you can add green light exposure into your daily routine.

What’s next?

It’s possible that researchers have only just begun to scratch the surface in terms of the potential applications for and benefits of narrow-band green light. Dr. Martin-Laurent also led a separate study, published in November of 2020, to understand the effects of green light on fibromyalgia. The results were similarly positive, with participants reporting a significant reduction in pain and corresponding improvement in quality of life.

Could narrow-band green light hold the key to pain reduction in other conditions? The studies of Dr. Martin-Laurent and Dr. Burstein give us hope and make the case for additional research to better understand the true scope of green light’s many potential benefits.

That third cup of coffee might just trigger your migraine.

What exactly is the relationship between caffeine and migraine? Much like the flavor notes in your morning pourover, the answer is ripe with complexities. For many habitual coffee drinkers, missing a cup of coffee can mean a caffeine withdrawal headache. Meanwhile, many over-the-counter headache medicines and even some prescription treatments include caffeine as a major ingredient.

Based on these two facts alone, you might deduce that caffeine can help your migraine. However, a group of Harvard researchers say “not so fast.” Their research, published in the American Journal of Medicine, suggests that there is a threshold to the number of caffeinated beverages you should consume in a single day if you experience migraines.

The researchers asked 98 migraineurs to keep track of their caffeine consumption, migraine headaches, and other lifestyle factors for at least six weeks. By analyzing this information, they found that one to two caffeinated beverages did not show a correlation with migraine attacks, while three or more increased the likelihood of triggering an attack. Amongst migraineurs who weren’t regular coffee drinkers, even just one to two caffeinated beverages was enough to bring on a migraine headache.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined one caffeinated beverage as eight ounces of coffee, a 12-ounce can of caffeinated soda, two ounces of an energy drink, or six ounces of tea.

What might this mean for your migraine?

The answer here is relatively simple. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, that third cup of jo might be a no-go. Or, if you’re someone who tends not to drink very much caffeine at all, opting for a venti americano might spell trouble. (No shame in keeping it small!) Either way, a better substitution for that extra cup could be any one of the number of drinks that help migraine.

This research also makes a case for keeping tabs on the amount of caffeine in your coffee, tea, or canned beverage. When it comes to coffee beans, it may seem counterintuitive, but lighter roasts actually contain more caffeine than darker roasts — oh, and that cup of coffee at your local cafe can have almost twice the caffeine of your homebrew. More of a tea drinker? Sticking to green or chamomile tea could be a lower-caffeine option than black or earl grey.

What’s next?

This study prompts us to wonder why three is the magic (or in this case, not-so-magic) number. More specifically, what’s happening at the physiological level as a result of this amount of caffeine to trigger a migraine attack? A better understanding could also demystify the way(s) in which other migraine triggers work, helping scientists develop solutions to preventing the reaction in the first place.

Patients receiving migraine treatment have no reason to avoid COVID-19 vaccines.

In the absence of any migraine-specific data from COVID-19 vaccine trials, many migraineurs have lingering questions about how vaccination may affect their migraine treatment or whether it may lead to unforeseen safety issues. In February, Dr. Amy A. Gelfand and Dr. Gregory Poland published a guest editorial in Headache addressing these concerns.

In the article, they focus primarily on a handful of common migraine treatments: NSAIDs (such as Ibuprofen), acetaminophen (such as Tylenol®), OnabotulinumtoxinA injections (more commonly, BOTOX®), and CGRP monoclonal antibodies (such as Aimovig®). They find no cause for concern regarding any of these treatments in regards to COVID-19 vaccinations, but note that the CDC does not recommend routine use of NSAIDs or acetaminophen before vaccinations. They also stress the importance of making treatment decisions with your healthcare provider.

Note: There is evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccinations may trigger a migraine for a significant portion of migraineurs. However, there is no evidence of recurring or long-term side effects beyond this acute reaction.

What might this mean for your migraine?

Simply put, if any of the above treatments are a regular piece of your migraine protocol, it means that there’s no reason to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine or fear that it will interfere negatively with treatment. Most importantly, it means that you are able to receive a vaccination and thereby greatly reduce your chances of becoming significantly ill due to the novel coronavirus. With certain case studies suggesting that COVID-19 may cause both acute and even long-term symptoms such as headache and photophobia, the preventative measure of a vaccine could mean avoiding pain you’re likely all too familiar with as a migraine patient.

What’s next?

With the limited availability of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination efforts across the United States are rolling out in stages and prioritizing those who are at high-risk of severe illness or exposure first. To find out if you’re eligible to receive a vaccine, check with your local health department. Once you confirm that you’re eligible, you can use a tool such as VaccineFinder to find a vaccination provider in your area.

More migraine news is on the way.

Check back soon to find new stories and studies as they’re published. Want the news to come to you? Just scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email. We’ll send research, migraine management techniques, and more straight to your inbox.

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