Fibromyalgia and light therapy
Do you have a chronic illness such as Fibromyalgia and long for some sunshine on your skin?
Do the winter months leave you feeling flat?
You may benefit from LIGHT THERAPY.
Many from the chronic illness community are advocates of light therapy as a powerful gift in raising their moods during winter darkness. I say gift as the negative to this therapy is cost. Most units are in the region of a hundred pounds so a good way to get one is birthdays or Christmas.
NB. Any of my family reading this, no I don't want one as I am not a good candidate for its magic, read on and see why. *
Light therapy has been shown to help with depression and sleep disorders as it resets the circadian rhythms (Biological clock) that control sleeping and waking.
According to MIND lack of sunshine months "affects at least 10% of us and can result in fatigue, anxiety, loss of libido, sleep problems, depression and mood swings."
This can start in England between September and November and go on until March, that is seven months!
Many people with chronic illness suffer also from depression. For many of us the depression arrived before the chronic illness but for some the impact on lifestyle, the isolation and loss it creates can cause depression. It can be very much like the chicken and the egg.
Rather than speculate on the origin of a light box may be a vital therapy to alleviate symptoms. I know I do a countdown to summer as my mood is lifted with sunshine on my skin, flowers in my garden and the general feel good the sun creates upon society.
It is exposure to light that is more beneficial than indoor light, it mimics sunlight although it is not as bright. For some, the reduction in sunlight during Autumn and winter months has a profound effect on their happiness. Light therapy replaces lost sunlight for them. It is believed that it improves mood by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a sleep hormone) and increases the production of serotonin ( a feel-good hormone)
What is light therapy?
Light therapy is recommended to be used in the morning when you wake for usually thirty minutes. Many users have reported an increase in the mood after as little as two days but of course, this depends on the severity of depression in each individual.
What it is not:Light therapy is not ultraviolet lights, heat lamps, just using a high watt light bulb or tanning studio light.
Like any alternative treatment what works as a miracle for some may not for others. But don't be fooled into thinking that as it is non-invasive that it does not come with risks. With all therapies, you should consult your Doctor to ensure it will not clash with other treatments, medications and if you feel that the treatment has any negative side effects then also discuss this with your doctor.
Is light therapy safe?
The most common side effect currently reported are
- Increased agitation or feeling wired
- Visual disturbances
- Eye strain
- Headaches and migraines*
* this is why I do not have one as I suffer a horrendous migraine already
However, contraindication are:
- You have macular degeneration.
- You have a family history of macular degeneration.
- You have porphyria, lupus, actinic dermatitis or solar urticaria
- You take medication that says "avoid sunlight"
- You take St John's Wort as this makes you sensitive to sunlight.
- You take medications for rheumatoid disease.
- You take diuretics, sulfa drugs or tricyclic antidepressants.
Will a lightbox boost my Vitamin D levels?
Sadly no, it is a different light than sunlight UVB radiation and not as powerful as harmful UV lights in tanning appliances. But do not even consider tanning beds as a method for vitamin D absorption!
"While any exposure to UVB radiation can increase vitamin D levels, such increases through sunbed exposures plateau rapidly and are outweighed by the risks. Sunbeds also emit high levels od UVA, which can cause melanoma but does not contribute to vitamin D production." (Autier P. Perspectives in melanoma prevention: the case of sunbeds. Eur J Cancer 2004O)
Light therapy is used for mood, not Vitamin D but when you consider that dermatologists at the forefront of treating skin cancer do not recommend the sun as a safe method of getting Vitamin D it is far better to raise your mood with light therapy and get Vitamin D from other sources such as diet and supplements.
As a qualified complementary and alternative therapist AND a lady with chronic illness, I am obviously open to the powers of therapies outside of conventional medicine.
I do not use light therapy myself as I am contraindicated and also I suffer from migraines. If you are like me then simple measures such as moving your chair to a more prominent window area and looking at ways to harness more natural light within your home are also huge mood boosters.
Love and gentle hugs