If you deal with migraine attacks, you probably already steer clear of triggers. But some migraine triggers, like the weather, are completely beyond your control.
Weather changes are actually one of the most common causes of migraine, affecting more than one-third of folks with chronic migraine. These weather-induced headaches are known as barometric pressure migraine. And they can be a doozy.
So, what can you do when Mother Nature brings you pain? Let’s take a look.
While migraine can be triggered by a variety of environmental or biological factors, a common cause among those of us who deal with migraine pain is the weather.
When shifts in air pressure (aka barometric pressure) occur, it can mess with the pressure levels in our sinuses, ears, or other cavities. The result is migraine pain, which is (*cue Jean-Ralphio voice*) the woooooorst.
Research on exactly why a barometric migraine happens is mixed. Some researchers have found a direct link between barometric pressure and migraine attacks, while others suggest that air pressure changes must be accompanied by other migraine triggers.
There’s also research that suggests that atmospheric pressure changes can induce these migraine attacks and affect just how severe an attack is.
When it comes to migraine symptoms, it almost feels like nothing’s off the table (if you know, you *know*). But there are some very specific symptoms associated with migraine pain.
Common migraine symptoms include:
- headaches lasting between 4 and 72 hours (yep, that’s 3 whole days 😬)
- sight issues, like kaleidoscope vision
- sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds
- difficulty focusing
- trouble sleeping
- mood changes
- nausea or abdominal pain
- excessive yawning
- changes in your speech
- memory problems
Barometric pressure migraine can cause all of the above and then some. When the weather’s got you down (literally), you may also experience:
- more intense light sensitivity
- pain in your temples
- face or neck numbness
- ringing in your ears
- tingling feeling in your hands or feet
Migraine attacks can be brought on by a variety of different triggers, such as certain smells, bright lights, or even stress.
Common weather forces that may be behind migraine attacks include changes in:
- strong winds
- air pressure
Barometric pressure changes are thought to alter the pressure balance in your sinuses and other small, air-filled cavities of your body. This can cause pain or discomfort and – you guessed it! – headache or migraine.
Pressure changes may also constrict blood vessels in these tiny cavities, preventing them from getting enough oxygen or possibly overstimulating our brain’s pain receptors.
According to one 2015 study, even the teeniest, tiniest shifts in atmospheric pressure are enough to wreak havoc on your head. Researchers studied the effects of barometric pressure shifts on 34 patients who experienced chronic migraine and found that small drops in pressure were more likely to induce migraine than standard atmospheric pressure levels.
The weather shifts and BAM! A migraine hits. Now what?
People can experience migraine attacks differently, so treatment is generally based on your unique symptoms. Most folks tend to reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) remedy, while others need the added oomph of prescription meds.
Popular OTC meds for migraine relief include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil)
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- combination drugs, like Excedrin
You can also turn to natural remedies for migraine relief, like:
- drinking plenty of water
- essential oils, like lavender or peppermint
- breathing exercises
- massage therapy
- COQ10 supplements
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- magnesium supplements
For chronic and episodic migraine, your doctor may recommend prescription-strength options to help treat or prevent migraine attacks. This could include:
- antinausea meds
- CGRP inhibitors
- anti-anxiety medications
Much like your local TV weatherman tracks weather patterns, you should be tracking your migraine patterns. This can help you understand your specific triggers and identify any symptoms that may occur before the full-blown migraine hits. Then you can prepare in advance — and possibly prevent the headache altogether.
Different medications and lifestyle changes may help you prevent a weather-related migraine attack from happening, such as:
- monitoring the weather and planning ahead for changes
- taking NSAIDs or other OTC pain relievers
- drinking plenty of hydrating H2O
- eating a well-balanced diet and not skipping meals
- steering clear of alcohol
- limiting caffeine intake
- getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night
- finding ways to manage or reduce stress
- regularly exercising
Because every migraine attack is different, you may need to try a few of these tips and tricks before you find what works for your migraine.
If nothing’s working to provide sweet relief from your symptoms, or if migraine attacks are messing with your quality of life, it’s def time to call your doc.
You should also contact your doctor ASAP if you experience:
- severe or unrelenting symptoms
- muscle weakness
- muscle numbness
- confusion or memory loss
- continued speech or vision problems after the migraine has gone
- bloody stool
While your doctor can’t control the weather, they *can* offer you other solutions to ease your barometric pressure migraine woes.
This often includes prescription medications. Your doctor may also suggest alternative forms of treatment, like Botox injections.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend more aggressive forms of treatment, such as nerve decompression surgery. Research suggests that this procedure can help those with migraine by significantly reducing the number and severity of migraine attacks that they experience each month. Nerve decompression surgery may even help some folks kiss migraine attacks goodbye completely.
Barometric pressure migraine is a migraine triggered by changes in atmospheric pressure, which often happens when there are shifts in the weather.
Keeping tabs on the weather and being prepared for when shifts may occur can help in preventing barometric pressure migraine attacks. Eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and exercising regularly may also keep migraine at bay.
If weather-related migraine is becoming a problem and affecting your overall quality of life, your doctor can offer strategies and solutions to help you manage your symptoms.