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Does Air Pressure Cause Migraines

How Do Barometric Pressure Changes Cause Headaches

Migraines with weather change | Why do I get migraines when the weather changes?

There are many theories surrounding how changes in atmospheric pressure create headaches. One of these is that pain may be a protective or defensive response to adverse weather. Weather headaches or migraines occur in extreme heat or cold and when there are large swings in weather patterns. This includes changes in barometric pressure which cause headaches.

Another common theory around barometric pressure headaches revolves around the sinuses within our facial bones. As these are full of air, any changes to the pressure of the air around us will impact the pressure within these sinuses. This is also true for the structures and chambers of the inner ear and the air within our cranial bones.

You can now see how barometric pressure headaches are created during take-off and landing when flying.

A Japanese study in 2015 found that even slight fluctuations in air pressure can trigger headaches and migraines in chronic sufferers.

Can The Atmospheric Pressure Affect Our Health

The short answer: yes, it can.

Our body is made up of fluids and gases. As the pressure in the atmosphere rises and falls, the pressure exerted against your body does as well. Low atmospheric pressure causes a pressure difference between the atmosphere around us and the air within our body. This can lead to headaches, joint pains, sleep disturbance, and other biochemical changes. Atmospheric pressure can indeed affect your health, physiology and behaviour.

In plants hypobaric stress can even change gene expression profiles. Whether this is also the case in humans remains unclear but it shows that biological systems react in measurable ways even to small changes in atmospheric pressure.

Atmospheric pressure is not the only weather phenomenon affecting our body. Studies suggest that a lightning strike near the house increases the risk of headaches or migraines up to 30%.

Barometric pressure is a measure of atmospheric pressure, or the weight of the atmosphere above ground. A barometer is used to measure the pressure, which is stated in units of mercury. At sea level, barometric pressure is measured as 760 mm of mercury. A barometer measures pressure of the atmosphere against the earth so readings change with different elevations.

Suffer An ‘airplane Headache’ When Flying You’re Not Alone

Body scans, missed connections, fighting for overhead bin space, annoying passengers in flight there are many things about flying that can make your head pound. But some researchers are documenting yet another kind of pain from air travel, which they call the “airplane headache.”

In a paper published online in the journal Cephalalgia, Italian neurologists report on 75 people who suffer from what they describe as a “peculiar headache.” It’s peculiar because it tends to occur while on a plane and usually lasts less than 30 minutes. It also seems to mostly affect men, and it typically flares up during the flight’s landing.

To gather up information about airplane headache, researchers gave people affected by them a written questionnaire. From these completed surveys they found that everyone described the pain as severe. The headache causes a stabbing or jabbing pain that starts suddenly usually on one side of the head. It mainly affects the area of the forehead above the eye.

Within minutes of the plane touching the ground, the headache usually goes away.

As for why airplane headaches occur, scientists think “it’s due to an imbalance between the air pressure in the cabin and those in the frontal sinuses,” says lead author Dr. Federico Mainardi.

The exact cause of airplane headaches remain unclear, but it’s likely due to several factors such as the shape of the sinuses, as well as the speed of the aircraft, cabin pressure, and even the maximum altitude reached.

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How Does Migraine Cause Ear Symptoms

A faulty sensory integration system or hyper-responsive brain in migraine causes multi-sensory symptoms, not just a headache. Stay with me here. We actually have more than five senses, but referring back to our kindergarten knowledge of our sensory systems think of multi-sensory migraine symptoms like this

  • Eyes- Light sensitivity, tearing, red or bloodshot eyes & visual aura.
  • Ears- Sound sensitivity, tinnitus, ear fullness, pain, pressure & popping. Fluctuating hearing loss & dizziness.
  • Nose- Fragrance and odor sensitivity, congestion, runny nose, sinus pain & phantom smells.
  • Mouth- Food taste changes, tongue or face numbness, teeth aching, language difficulty & jaw trouble.
  • Touch- Allodynia, ticks & twitches, temporary paralysis etc.
  • The symptom list above is not meant to be comprehensive but to demonstrate how multi-sensory sensitivities lead to multi-sensory symptoms.

    How Do I Treat Migraines Triggered By Changes In Weather

    What is Barometric Pressure Headache

    You would want to treat a headache caused by a pressure mismatch with the same medications you would typically treat a migraine. This includes Tylenol, anti-inflammatory medications such as Motrin or Aleve, or any medications prescribed for headaches. Also, be sure to let your neurologist know about these headaches, because what may seem like an inevitable sinus headache may turn out to be a migraine that will improve with some very specific treatment.

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    There’s An App For That

    Ryanjlane/Getty Images

    You can’t control the weather, as Mother Nature has her own plans. But you can get ahead of barometric weather changes. Most of what I learned explained that itâs important to take medicine as soon as you experience symptoms. This helped me dramatically. An app called WeatherX Forecast offers two solutions: special earplugs to help with discomfort and barometric pressure forecasts.

    “The app can be very useful because it can send you an alert when barometric pressure drops by 20 millibars, which is the common threshold for migraines,” Mauskop notes. “You can actually send alerts to yourself for smaller or greater barometric pressure changes depending on how sensitive you are, but 20 millibars is the standard one.” The value of the apps is it tells you a warningâusually before you develop a headacheâso you can either use the earplugs, take medicine, or both.

    Tara Moore/Getty Images

    There are also alternative ways to deal with head pain. While there are no specific ones for barometric pressure headaches, there are methods for migraines. âWe recommend preventative regular exercise, which conditions your blood vessels and muscles,â says Mauskop.

    He also suggests getting your stress levels down. âVery often it is not a single trigger, like weather, but multiple triggers,â he explains. âIf you are under stress, dehydrated, hungry, or sleep deprived, then the weather could just be an additional trigger that will bring on a migraine.â

    Barometric Pressure Migraines And Headaches

    Air pressure is closely related to the weather. Barometric changes are a key trigger for many migraine sufferers. For some people, its a sudden drop in pressure and for others, its a rise in pressure. Barometric pressure refers to the pressure in the air or the amount of force that is being applied to your body from the air. For example, when the outside air pressure drops, it creates a pressure difference between the air in our sinuses and outside and can cause head pain. This is similar to what some people experience when flying on an airplane.

    Barometric pressure does not have to change drastically to cause a migraine or headache. If you suffer barometric pressure migraines, consider buying a barometer to help you prepare for and predict the barometric pressure changes that affect you the most. A good barometer is the Ambient Weather WX-228TBH or B10225C.

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    When To See A Doctor

    You should see a doctor if you consistently have to take pain medication for head pressure more than two times per week. Make an appointment with your doctor if your head pressure is long term , severe, or unusual for you. Headaches that disrupt your day-to-day activities warrant medical treatment.

    If you dont already have a primary care provider, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.

    Seeking treatment for an underlying condition, such as sinusitis or an ear infection, can also help relieve head pressure. Depending on your condition, your doctor might refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

    When the source of your head pressure isnt clear or symptoms suggest a more serious condition, the doctor might order a CT scan or an MRI scan. Both of these diagnostic procedures produce a detailed image of your brain that your doctor will use to learn more about what is causing your head pressure.

    Treatment depends on the underlying cause of head pressure.

    Tension headaches are treated with a combination of OTC and prescription medications.

    Some medications treat tension headache pain when it occurs. These include OTC pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and combination drugs, which combine two or more pain medications with either caffeine or a drug to help you relax.

    Why Do I Get Migraines When Humidity Is High

    Barometer changes can trigger headaches

    Air pressure can fall quickly, and migraine sufferers frequently detect this rapid change. High or rising barometric pressure signals better weather, as well as rising temperatures that could lead to an increase in humidity levels. High humidity is a common migraine trigger.

    Migraine Triggers: Weather Changes. For instance, even though the heat, high humidity or a storm can cause the headaches in some people, its usually the change in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure that brings Migraines on in most sufferers. 1 A study by Connelly et al., looked at fluctuations in weather as triggers in children,

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    Migraine Ear Pressure: Steps To Take For Relief Now

    This post may contain affiliate links. Migraine Strong, as an Amazon Affiliate, makes a small percentage from qualified sales made through affiliate links at no cost to you.

    This is an evidence-based article from the authors of Migraine Strong. It includes scientific evidence from studies and peer-reviewed research papers. References to the evidence may be reviewed by clicking the hyperlinked words and/or numbers in parenthesis within the article.

    If you have been diagnosed with migraine, chances are youve experienced migraine ear pressure. That more than uncomfortable feeling of fullness and pressure in your ears. Like you have water trapped in your ears and you cant release it. Worse is when ear pressure fluctuates so it feels or even sounds like bubbling or popping or a fluttering feeling in your ear making it nearly impossible to ignore. These ear pressure fluctuations may cause hearing to become distorted. You may even experience temporary & fluctuating hearing loss with migraine ear pressure changes.

    While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor

    How Does High Barometric Pressure Cause A Migraine

    Air pressure can fall quickly, and migraine sufferers frequently detect this rapid change. High or rising barometric pressure signals better weather, as well as rising temperatures that could lead to an increase in humidity levels. High humidity is a common migraine trigger. How Barometric Pressure Affects Migraine Sufferers

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    Is Ear Fluttering & Migraine Ear Pressure Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

    Let me start by saying migraine ear pressure and sensations of ear fluttering, fullness and popping and the distorted sounds that come with them are not usually a eustachian tube problem. It definitely feels like eustachian tube dysfunction, but typically the eustachian tube continues to function normally. Similar to the way migraine can make your teeth hurt even though your teeth are healthy. And migraine can make you feel like you have sinus congestion, even when there is no sinus issue present. Migraine can make you feel like you have eustachian tube dysfunction even when you dont.

    Migraine variant symptoms like ear pressure and fluttering are often described as being a result of central sensitization from a hyper-responsive, hyper-excitable, sensitive migraine brain. But what does that actually mean? Dr. Teixido, board certified Neurotologist at ENT & Allergy of Delaware says people without migraine disease can adapt to sensory stimulus such as barometric changes, light, noise, strong smells, movement etc. within minutes. Effectively turning stimulus off and moving it into the background. But, for those of us with migraine, our brains dont easily adapt.

    What Causes Migraine Ear Pressure

    Barometric pressure headaches

    Lets say youre eating at an outdoor café with a friend on a beautiful, sunny day. You both see traffic going by and hear construction noise in the distance. Your friend can quickly ignore the noise, bright light and moving traffic. Her brain turns it off. But because you have migraine, the stimulus of the light, movement and noise continues to build. Its a progressive assault on your senses that may even make it difficult for you to focus on or engage in conversation.

    And outside sensory input isnt the only trouble maker here. Physiological stimulus like hormones, illness, sleep, stress, hunger, dehydration, exercise and pain are difficult for us to regulate as well. Throw food triggers into that mix and according to Dr. Teixido, instead of adapting, the irritation of the stimulus continues to build and grow until it ends in crisis also known as a migraine attack. This is the reason many of us retreat to a quiet, dark room during our worst attacks. We need to turn off sensory input and soothe our sensory integration system to effectively abort attacks.

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    How To Pop Your Ears Safely

    As discussed above migraine ear pressure and sensations of fluttering are not really a eustachian tube problem, but may make you feel the need to pop your ears. You can safely open your eustachian tubes the following ways.

    • Chew- Chewing gum or crunchy foods.
    • Suck- Suck on hard candy or drink through a straw.
    • Swallow- Swallowing naturally opens your eustachian tube.
    • Yawn- Forcing a yawn can pop your ears as well.

    If you feel an urgency to pop your ears please do this gently through the techniques listed above. There are no other techniques to release pressure in your ears that are safe to try at home. Im cringing even mentioning the following techniques, but I do see them mentioned in support groups so they should be addressed. Holding your nose and blowing is dangerous and can perforate your ear drums or push fluid into your middle ear. Unless directed by a doctor avoid putting anything into your ears including devices that suck and blow air. No putting your palm over your ears and pumping in an attempt to force pressure changes. All of these techniques can be dangerous and do long lasting damage to your middle or inner ear. I beg you, not to try them. Yawn, chew, suck and swallow only.

    Medicines And Other Remedies

    Theres little any of us can do about the weather. So outside of locking ourselves in pressure-regulated chambers, painkillers and decongestants are probably the only way to remedy your pain until the weather outside passes through.

    Its also worth noting, however, that headaches rarely happen due to one trigger alone and changes in atmospheric pressure may not always cause a headache. Bad posture and inflammation in the body may both cause headaches. Muscles that are contracted over long periods time need more blood flow to deliver oxygen and other nutrients and this is the hallmark of inflammation over time. Stress increases the levels of adrenaline and cortisol in our body, which can also cause inflammation and widen the blood vessels in your head leading to headaches and pain.

    Proper posture and reducing stress may help prevent headaches. Staying hydrated and eating a varied diet containing essential minerals and vitamins, and avoiding trigger foods and drinks , will also help.

    When bad weather is impending, vigorous chewing can help the pressure equalise in your sinuses through your mouth, nose, and Eustachian tube and may ward off a pressure headache. And choosing sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol may also have the added benefit of stopping nasty respiratory bugs from sticking to your mucus membranes by changing their cell wall structure, according to one study.

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    Can Barometric Pressure Cause Migraines And Headaches

    Barometric pressure is a completely normal event and we have experienced it for millions of years throughout our evolution.

    Its even reasonable to assume that knowing when the weather was changing would have provided an additional adaptation to survival because we would then have some time to prepare before any storms hit.

    Its usually the case that barometric pressure will change 5-6 hours before a storm comes but some very sensitive migraine and headache sufferers can feel it up to a day or two prior.

    As the barometric pressure drops and the pressure in the atmosphere around us becomes low, our body has to adapt.

    This causes many different changes in our bodies including changing the pressure in our ears and sinuses.

    If our ears or sinuses have mucus or blockages, this makes the problem much worse because the air in them will try to expand, pressing on nerves.

    This means we need to choose cleaner diets that are less mucus forming.

    According to mother nature network there are also changes in blood pressure, blood sugar and event joint pain when the barometric pressure changes.

    Its completely reasonable to suspect that if blood pressure, blood sugar and joint pain are all adversely affected, then the body is going through big changes during lowering or heightening barometric pressure.

    We know the migraine brain is one that does not like change and these are not small changes if they can affect these factors.

    How To Prevent Migraines Caused By The Weather

    MIGRAINEX EAR PLUGS: WeatherX Earplugs for Airplanes, Migraine & Barometric Pressure Headache Relief

    While you cant control the weather, you can control other potential triggers, says Dr. Crystal. For some people with migraine, it takes a perfect stormpun intendedto trigger an attack. So, she says, if you know your particular weather trigger, make sure to optimize other conditions. For example, if youre worried about a brewing storm, make sure to avoid your known food triggers, get plenty of rest, and practice stress reduction. And of course, make sure to have your medications on hand.

    Moreover, tracking weather can be helpful. I recommend using the WeatherX app, says Dr. Crystal. Once you establish a relationship between weather and your migraines, she says, you can potentially pre-treat with an anti-inflammatory medication.

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