Can Fibromyalgia Patients Benefit From Light Therapy?

Morning light treatment improves function and pain in patients with fibromyalgia, according to a recent study presented at SLEEP 2017: Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

The study included 10 adults between age 22 years and 59 years who met the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 2010 Diagnostic Criteria for Fibromyalgia. Participants slept at home and on their usual sleep schedule for 1 week before participating in an overnight session that assessed their baseline function, pain sensitivity, and circadian timing.
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After the overnight session, participants were randomly assigned to 6 days of either morning or evening light treatment, which was administered at their home using light boxes for 1 hour per day. Pain sensitivity, function, and circadian timing were reassessed following the 6 days of treatment.

Overall, participants completed 84% of the scheduled light treatments, and no side effects were reported.

While both morning and evening light treatments improved pain sensitivity and function, only morning light treatment demonstrated clinically meaningful improvement in function and pain sensitivity. Additionally, phase advances in circadian timing were associated with an increase in pain tolerance.

“Morning bright light treatment should be further explored as a potentially feasible, acceptable and effective adjunctive treatment for fibromyalgia,” the researchers concluded. “The improvement in function was similar to that seen after psychotherapy, and about half of the improvement seen after months of exercise training. Phase advances in circadian timing may be one mechanism by which morning bright light improves function and pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia.”

—Melissa Weiss


Burgess HJ, Park M, Ong JC, et al. Morning bright light treatment improves function and reduces pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia. Presented at: SLEEP 2017: Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies; Boston, MA; June 3-7, 2017. Abstract 1010.