Sunlight as Pain Medication


We all love the sun, basking in it’s warming rays, feeling the heat. Opening the windows to let the sunshine in always seems to lift the spirit and lighten the mood. With so much controversy about skin cancer and staying out of the sun for protection, we’ve started conditioning ourselves to question the benefits of the sun. Well, did you know that studies have shown that sun exposure can actually reduce pain in the body, lowering the doses of pain-relieving medication by those who are recovering from things such as spinal surgery?

That’s right, a study conducted through the University of Pittsburgh observed 89 patients in hospital beds who had all under-gone elective cervical and lumbar spinal surgery. Now, any kind of recovery can be painful, I think we can all agree. But spinal surgery must truly be ‘a pain in the back.’  Approximately half the patients were put up in the side of the hospital with big bright windows and the rest, on the ‘darker’ side. Now, this kind of study always kind of makes me mad because I think – “If you would’ve told me about the study, I would have asked for the ‘brighter’ side please!” Well, in any case, these people were observed as to their moods, recovery time and quantity of pain medications they requested.  Sure enough, those on the ‘sunny side’ requested less meds by 22% per hour, had brighter dispositions and recovered faster – spending 21% less on hospital bills than those ‘left in the dark’ so to speak.

This study shouldn’t come as any surprise, though we humans like to have these kinds of ‘stats’ to please our logical minds and give ourselves the ‘okay’ to let the sunshine in, when otherwise we may not. In all cases across the board, the sun is proving to be more of a healer than anything else. The important thing is always remember, when sitting out in the sun, to take care you are doing so in the least harsh times of day. As far as sunscreen goes, you are better off with the natural kind or none at all, as harmful chemicals have been discovered in sunscreen which are worse for you than the sun. (See my previous article Skin Cancer Prevention: Sunscreen or Vaccine?)

Spending time in the sun has not only shown to reduce pain, but to help burn fat, increase evening time alertness and even increase our lifespan! They have even shown that inadequate sun exposure can contribute to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (see recent article). The vitamin D we receive from the sun is just one of the powerful benefits – but Vitamin D alone is shown to regulate over 2,000 genes in the body – important for the regulation of major hormones.

Just because we have created a society which lives largely ‘inside’ doesn’t mean we ought to neglect the healing power of the sun, in fact, our very lives depend upon it! So, the next time you are in pain, before you reach for the pain medication just find the sunny window, or step out into the rays of the sun and let them bask you with their bountiful grace. You might find you need less medication, or maybe even none. The sun has so much to offer when we turn in the direction of it, open our arms and receive the gifts.

Written by: Stasia Bliss

Sources:; Green Med Sun and Pain Killer study