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  • Writer's pictureJulie Manley

Barometric pressure changes and Migraines

I decided to look up information about migraines and weather changes. Our crazy temperature changes and rain/sunshine days increase the number of clients (and staff) with migraines and headaches. As per everything migraine related, it is difficult to get a consensus.

First, what is migraine?

The exact causes of migraines are unknown, although they are related to changes in the brain as well as to genetic causes. For many years, scientists believed that migraines were linked to the expanding (dilation) and constriction (narrowing) of blood vessels on the brain’s surface. However, it is now believed that migraine is caused by inherited abnormalities in certain areas of the brain. There is a migraine "pain center" or generator in the mid-brain area. A migraine begins when hyperactive nerve cells send out impulses to the blood vessels leading to the dilation of these vessels and the release of prostaglandins, serotonin and other inflammatory substances that cause the pulsation to be painful.

Next what are some triggers?

If you google "migraine triggers", you could be reading for hours. Many triggers are common for all but how powerful one trigger is compared to the next seems to be very individual. Some common triggers are hormonal changes, certain foods, alcohol, stress, bright lights, poor sleep, intense exercise, some medications and changing weather patterns. inc

The question is, does the change in barometric pressure cause the migraine or is it simply that this change in pressure happens at the same time as other weather-related triggers, including:

  1. Changes in the weather, which cause an imbalance in brain chemicals such as serotonin, a “feel-good” compound. This results in changes in the patient’s mental state, and can bring on a migraine.

  2. Bright, sunny conditions, which can increase the amount of glare and activate a sensitivity to light that many migraineurs suffer with.

  3. Hot, dry conditions that increase the risk of dehydration, which is a common (but preventable) migraine trigger.

  4. Lightning during storms that gives off electromagnetic waves, and rain that can cause the emission of spores from plants and trigger an allergic reaction.

What makes sense to me is this; have you ever seen a glass barometer? The principle is that the air left in the bottle above the water exerts the pressure of the air at the time the bottle was filled, while the liquid in the spout is exposed to the changing atmospheric pressure. As atmospheric pressure falls, the water in the spout rises and vice versa. Since the human body is made up of 50-75% water, it seems reasonable to think that as barometric pressure changes, so could the pressure in our joints, sinuses, vessels and other parts of our body. There is a lot of research out there linking sinus pressure to migraines as well as sinus abnormalities and migraines. How I've seen it usually is that on any given day someone may already have a few triggers; lets say they exercised vigorously, didn't sleep well for a few days and were feeling stressed. You add in a barometric pressure change and it's the final straw causing migraine.

I guess I should blog about arthritis and weather changes next.

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