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How Does Air Pressure Affect Migraines

Create A Prevention Strategy

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

Forming a prevention plan with your doctor is key. Your strategy should center around anticipating and alleviating triggers. That might involve increasing your hydration or temporarily using preventive medications, Dr. Klenofsky says.

Additionally, steer clear of migraine-activating foods, especially when there’s rain or thunderstorms in the forecast, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Common offenders include:

  • Alcohol

What Happens To The Body When The Barometer Drops

When the barometer drops, the body relaxes and fluid drains out of these incompressible spaces, lowering pressure. This is why inflamed joints and teeth ache with weather changes, and also why the incidence of seizure activity and migraine-like headaches increases with as little as a 5mb change in barometric pressure.

Ways To Ward Off Headaches

Weather is certainly not the only reason we get headaches. Stress, specific over-the-counter medicines like analgesics or pain killers, hormonal triggers and certain disorders related to sleep for example may also be causes, Dr. Kriegler says.

And while you cant control the weather, you can take steps to minimize the your risk, severity and treatment of a headache or migraine attack by following some best practices.

  • Avoid other triggers when the weather is bad Stay away from foods that cause migraines, like those that contain caffeine, monosodium glutamate and nitrates and youll remove one other trigger factor from the mix.
  • Keep rescue medications handy Discuss these medications with your doctor. If you havent tried rescue medications before, ask your doctor what is available. If you know certain drugs work for you, make sure your prescriptions are up to date to have them at the ready.
  • Ask about preventive options If you go through an especially bad period of migraines, your doctor may want to try medications or other treatments designed to keep migraines at bay before they happen. Sleep deprivation or other sleep issues for example can contribute to a higher frequency of headaches, so its important for you to increase the amount you get each night.
  • Wear sunglasses Besides storms, Dr. Kriegler says bright light and glare from a sunny day or light flickering through trees while someone is driving can also trigger a migraine headache.
  • Also Check: How To Get A Migraine

    How To Know If It’s Happening To You

    Studio Firma/Stocksy

    If you’re into biology, you’ll appreciate this scientific description of what happens inside your head when you feel discomfort. As stated in Medical News Today: “researchers think that changes in atmospheric pressure cause a pressure difference between the sinus cavities, the structures and chambers of the inner ear, and the outside world. These pressure changes can cause persistent pain, especially in small, confined, air-filled systems, such as the sinus and ear chambers. Increasing external pressure may also cause blood vessels to dilate and abnormal blood flow to the brain, increasing the risk of a headache or a migraine.”

    Since you can’t look inside your head to see whatâs happening, try to figure it out based on symptoms. Mauskop says that if you’re experiencing one or more of the following, you likely have a migraine: “These features include unilateral headaches , throbbing quality of pain, associated nausea, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, and with movement .”

    Personally, I feel the pressure on one side and can get a bit nauseous. Always talk to your doctor if the situation is at all unclear.

    How Changes In The Weather Can Affect Your Health

    The Physical and Psychological Effects of Barometric ...

    Do you notice a change in the way you feel when the weather shifts? If so, youre not alone, nor are you imagining it. Some people are more sensitive than others to changes in barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, which typically decreases when weather conditions worsen.

    While it can be difficult to identify barometric pressure as the definitive cause of certain issues, its worth keeping track of problems or concerns that seem to flare up when the clouds roll in.

    San Diego has had more rain this year than usual. And with the fluctuating sunny-then-rainy days come swings in temperature, pressure or humidity that can affect the way we physically feel.

    The most commonly reported result of changes in barometric pressure on our health is associated with headaches and migraines, says Dr. Joseph Aquilina, a family medicine doctor and chief medical officer of SharpCare Medical Group. The likelihood of a headache is also increased if there is already any congestion or blockage in the sinuses.

    While much that is written about barometric pressure focuses on the changes we experience when traveling to high altitudes, the effects of weather-inspired changes in atmospheric pressure can be experienced without even leaving home.

    So why the headache?

    There are, however, ways to get ahead of potential issues.

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    How Can I Prevent A Barometric Pressure Headache

    We cant control the weather , but Dr Chris recommends keeping a diary of your symptoms and noting down any additional triggers or factors that affect how frequently, or how severe, your headaches are . If you can rule these out, you may find that a barometric pressure headache isnt anywhere near as debilitating as it is when combined with other contributing factors.

    In the meantime, can the weather gods please do their thing and give us the summer we deserve?

    How Does The Air Pressure Affect The Human Body

    Dr. Matthew Fink says in the New York Times that changes in air pressure can cause physical discomfort. Headaches and joint pain are common in low pressure systems, and uncomfortable ear popping can occur as the body tries to equalize the pressure inside its cavities with the changing atmospheric pressure.

    ACS Distance Education explains that air pressure is the force exerted by the weight of air molecules. Atmospheric pressure is determined by the amount of air directly above a person or object. At sea level, the atmospheric pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch, or PSI. At higher altitudes, the PSI decreases due to lower air pressure and density. Skin adjusts easily to changes in pressure, but the cavities within the body, such as the lungs, ears and sinuses, do not adjust automatically. This is why many people experience a popping in their ears while taking off in an airplane or driving through mountains.

    Dr. Fink explains other effects that may be felt by the body under these circumstances or during a low pressure weather system. The difference in pressure between the body’s cavities and the atmosphere can result in headaches or distension in the sinuses, which are filled with air. People who suffer from arthritis or bursitis may experience joint pain as their muscles and joints swell in response to the decreased pressure on their bodies.

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    Can Changes In Weather Really Trigger Your Migraines

    We often have people say they feel their migraines getting worse with changes in weather, especially during the cold and flu season when were in the onslaught of winter chills, rain, and occasionally snow. Some people will even say they can predict the weather based on their migraines, and research has shown there is something to this. There is a link between atmospheric pressure and the amount of migraine pain some people experience. Atmospheric pressure, of course, is affected by weather. In fact, pressure headaches, sinus headaches, and barometric headaches may in some cases be examples of the weather affecting your migraines.

    What Is Barometric Pressure

    Dr. David Cash : How to Avoid the Symptoms of Barometric Pressure

    Barometric pressure is the force exerted on our bodies by the atmosphere and the air around us. Our body adjusts the pressure in our ear and sinus cavities to try to match the pressure inside our heads to the pressure outside our bodies. A sudden change in barometric pressure would cause a mismatch. While we wait for our body to adjust, the barometric pressure is different from the pressure in our sinuses and inner ears. This mismatch in pressure can trigger our pain pathways. Blood vessels in our head can widen and substances that trigger pain sensations can be released. In fact, in people who have migraines, sudden changes in barometric pressure can trigger the same mechanisms involved in having a migraine.

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    Why Does Weather Affect Fibromyalgia Symptoms

    Unfortunately, researchers do not yet know why weather appears to affect fibromyalgia symptoms so much. However, here are a few possible explanations:

    Change in Sleep Cycle: Weather, particularly hot and cold temperatures, can sometimes affect the way in which you sleep. This could have a great affect on symptoms and flares if you are a fibromyalgia sufferer.

    Change in Circadian Rhythm: Your body operates using an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. Changes in seasons and the amount of light that your body receives can throw off your circadian rhythm, causing you to feel fatigued and more achy then usual.

    Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines: There does appear to be a relationship between low temperature levels and an increase in the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body. These cytokines appear to be related to pain intensity.

    Symptoms Of Barometric Pressure Migraines

    Apart from the debilitating and severe pain, symptoms of a barometric migraine include:

    • nausea and stomach pains, which are sometimes accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea
    • pain around one or both temples, which can also affect the eyes, ears, forehead or back of the head
    • feelings of depression and changes in perception of things
    • increased sensitivity to light or the development of an aura, which may last for several hours
    • numbness and tingling in the face, head and neck, which can also spread to the arms and legs
    • waves of pain that throb in time with the patients heartbeat

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    Why Is Weather A Migraine Trigger

    Different factors cause different headaches, says Dr. Berk, adding that weather does have an impact.Most often its related to changes in weather patterns rather than just heat or cold, he says. For instance, the humidity and change in barometric pressure can be a common migraine trigger. The migraine brain is sensitive to all kinds of changesand the response to change often is a migraine exacerbation.”

    Dr. Pace estimates that in over a third of people with migraines, weather pattern changes are a trigger. Research shows that a change in pressure systemsso when rainstorms come, or high humid states, as well as changes in temperaturecan increase the likelihood of headache. Though it is not completely understood why certain weather conditions can lead to headaches, she says that barometric pressure changes may cause over-excitement of areas of the brain that control pain. Atmospheric pressure changes may also change the pressure within the sinuses and inner ears which can also lead to the experience of pain.

    People with migraines tend to be more sensitive to bright light, including sunlight, says Sara Crystal, MD, is a Neurologist who currently serves as medical director for Cove, a digital health program that allows patients to access expert care for their migraines. She also mentions that weather changes may affect serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn triggers attacks.

    Managing Migraines In General

    How to Relieve Barometric Pressure Headaches

    Whatever your specific triggers, the following steps will help you manage your migraines.

    Practice good sleep hygiene. Make sure you get enough sleep and try to fall asleep around the same time each night. Interruptions in your sleep schedulesuch as getting too much or too little sleepcan trigger migraines in some people.

    Drink plenty of water. Eating regular meals and drinking enough water can help prevent migraines caused by a drop in blood sugar or dehydration. A common recommendation is to drink six or eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. However, some adults may need more, depending on how much they exercise, for example.

    Be careful with coffee. Although caffeine can provide migraine relief , too much can cause migraines. Caffeine can be found in chocolate and cocoa beverages such as coffee, tea and colas and certain medications.

    Limit alcohol. Blood flow to your brain increases when you drink alcohol. Red wine in particular triggers migraines in many people.

    Watch what you eat. Many foods can trigger migraines. A few of the more common ones include peanuts, peanut butter, other nuts and seeds, chocolate, and foods containing tyramine, such as aged cheeses and cured meats.

    Exercise regularly. Research has shown that regular, moderate aerobic exercise may reduce the severity, duration, and number of migraines in many people. Regular exercise also helps control stress, another migraine trigger.

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    Can The Cold Affect My Headaches

    It’s a common problem: the temperature drops, and you find yourself overwhelmed with head pain. Some people attribute it to stress from the holidays, since notable changes in the weather often occur during the whirlwind months of November and December. But while emotional stress can contribute to migraines, Dr. Shital Shah, a neurologist with Summit Health, explains that the shift in temperature plays a bigger role than many realize. In fact, it can trigger issues ranging from migraines to sinus pressure to ear pain.

    How does the cold weather affect my head?

    There are two factors of cold weather that might be causing your head pain:

    1. The barometric pressure lowers.

    You may need to go way back to your earth science class to remember that cold weather often corresponds to low-pressure air systems, causing changes between indoor and outdoor air pressure. This causes pain in a couple of ways:

    • Sinus headaches and ear pain. These occur due to the swelling as your body adjusts to the shift in air pressure. “It’s the same concept of getting a headache on a plane,” explains Dr. Shah, “The change often causes painful pressure on the sinus and ears.”
    • Migraines. Blood-flow changes to the brain are a chief trigger for migraines. “This can be caused by weather and pressure changes,” explains Dr. Shah, “which can cause blood vessels to dilate, and that affects how the body responds.”

    2. Humidity drops.

    What can I do to treat and prevent cold-weather headaches?

    Barometric Pressure Sensitivity In Migraine

    See also: sensory sensitivity in migraine

    Barosensitivity is commonly reported in patients with migraine, although little has been written about it. There are only 21 papers in Pubmed as of 2016 concerning “atmospheric pressure and migraine”, and only about 10 are directly relevant.

    We firmly hold the opinion that based on our experience with many thousands of migraine patients in Chicago, Illinois, there are a subgroup of migraine patients , who have a strong sensitivity to low pressure fronts. These are the patients who say that “I can predict the weather” because of an increase liklihood of having a migraine. As genetics probably plays a substantial role in migraine triggers, let us say here that Chicago is a very large diverse city with roughly equal numbers of Caucasians, Hispanic, and African Americans.

    It is part of the pervasive increased sensitivity to sensory input found in patients with migraine.

    Motion sickness can trigger smell sensitivity

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    Weather As A Headache Trigger

    It’s fairly common for a person with headaches or migraines to subjectively report weather as a trigger for their attacks. While some people cite simply a “change in weather” as their trigger, and others can pin down more specific weather changes like high or low temperatures, humidity, sunlight, wind speed, and dew point.

    For example, one study in Cephalalgia examined over 1200 participants with migraines. Weather was identified as the fourth most frequent migraine trigger, occurring in approximately 50 percent of the participants.

    In another study, in The Journal of Headache and Pain, of 120 people with either migraines or tension-type headaches, the weather was described as the most common trigger.

    Despite these subjective reports, however, studies on the effects of weather on headaches and migraines reveal inconsistent results. This means that in some studies, certain weather changes were linked with whether a migraine or a headache occurred and/or persisted, and in other studies, there was no significant link found.

    What Is A Barometric Pressure Headache

    How can weather patterns trigger a headache?

    sigridgombert/Getty Imags

    First, let’s understand what a barometric pressure change is. Essentially, barometric pressure is the force put on our bodies by the air around us. Examples of barometric pressure changes include when a storm is coming, it’s very windy, or we reach high altitudes, like flying on a plane or going skiing in the mountains. According to Mauskop, when this drops, it can affect us. For people who are sensitive to barometric pressure change, it can cause headaches.

    Now let’s take a closer look at types of headaches. “We classify headaches based on the description that you give us, meaning there is no objective test to prove that you have a migraine or a tension-type of headache,” Mauskop explains.

    A tension headache is the most common kind and can usually be helped with OTC meds like ibuprofen. They are often caused by stress, alcohol, and lack of sleep.

    boy anupong/Getty Images

    Mauskop says most of the barometric pressure headaches are actually migraines . “There are numerous triggers for migraines,” he says. “These include stress , lack of sleep, certain foods, menstrual cycle, and barometric pressure.” Also, some people are extra susceptible to migraines if they have genetic predispositions.

    A study published in 2017 by The Journal of Oral Rehabilitation found a positive association between migraine pain levels and atmospheric pressure, linking the two as cause and effect. So, yesâthe weather may very well be causing your splitting headache.

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    How Barometric Pressure Causes Migraines

    Barometric pressure is the method scientists use to measure the atmospheric pressure or weight of the air where it presses on the surface of the earth. This affects the weather by causing changes to the way air currents move around the earth. A device called a barometer is used to identify the pressure, and the barometric reading is helpful in forecasting incoming weather changes. High barometric pressure is usually linked to clear, sunny weather, while low pressure provides the perfect conditions for clouds and moisture to develop.


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