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Barometric pressure and headaches

Last Updated: 06.12.21


While researchers have yet to prove a definitive link between headaches or migraines and weather, according to the American Migraine Foundation, more than a third of the people with headaches claim that the weather patterns play a huge part in triggering their migraines.

In fact, several studies have found convincing evidence that weather, and changes in pressure, in particular, increase the likelihood of migraines and headaches occurring. What’s more, a 2017 study even helped demonstrate a positive association between the barometric pressure and the amount of headache pain that a person experiences.

If you ever had a severe headache before, you probably already know just how debilitating the pain it causes can be. Everything could be much simpler if we could find a way of knowing when the next one is coming so that you can make plans or prepare for it. In the case of migraines caused by the barometric changes, that could, in fact, be possible.

If it seems that your headaches occur during or after sudden and apparent changes in the weather, you should start paying closer attention. You don’t need to have the latest barometer to sense the change in atmospheric pressure.

Any weather change almost inevitably causes some sort of variation in barometric pressure. This is why headaches or migraines that are caused or affected by changes in the weather are often called pressure or barometric migraines.

The barometric pressure refers to the constant pressure in the atmosphere or amount of force that is being applied to your body from the air. Our sinuses are filled with air, which is why any change in that pressure can affect the intensity of headaches, or even outright produce them.

So what are the symptoms? Some people are much more sensitive to weather changes, and any such change can trigger the symptoms of a sore head immediately, while others may even sense or anticipate weather changes well before they happen.

This is similar to how your grandparents always blamed the weather for their aches. It may have seemed like nonsense to you at that time, but with the recent information we know, they might have been more right than you would have thought.

The typical symptoms of barometric pressure headaches include a persistent head pain that can last between 4 hours and 3 days. Increased sensitivity to sound, light, and smells. Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Distorted vision, numbness in the face and neck, more frequent yawning, slurred speech or thick tongue.

What’s more, these headaches can also affect your mood and emotions, making you often feel depressive or anxious. Dizziness or lightheadedness may also be present. If you experience these symptoms regularly when it is rainy or humid, you may be sensitive to barometric changes.

The causes for this are still not certain, but researchers believe that the changes in atmospheric pressure can create a pressure difference between the sinus cavities, the chambers and structures of the inner ear, and the outside space.

Depending on how often these occur and their intensity, the pressure changes can cause persistent pain, especially in small and air-filled systems, such as the ear chambers and the sinus.

The increase in the external pressure can also cause blood vessels to dilate, which leads to abnormal blood flow to the brain. Your brain needs a constant flux of blood to function correctly, and any disturbance to the normal blood flow can increase the risk of migraines and headaches.

Depending on how sensitive your nervous system is, researchers found in 2015 that even a small decrease in barometric pressure can induce a sore head. So what are the weather changes associated with these types of headaches?

Weather changes and atmospheric changes associated with barometric migraines and headaches include sudden drops or increases in temperature or humidity, unusually high or low temperature or humidity, changes in altitude, most storm systems, and strong wind systems.

If these headaches persist, you would do best to seek medical attention, so that you can find the right reason behind them and what the proper medication is. Just keep your trusty thermometer near you, and remember that acknowledging your pain is the first step to conquering it.



Ioana Moldovan

Ioana’s professional experience in the optics field has helped her understand the value of passing her knowledge forward. Her curious personality helps her gather useful information for her readers and her goal is to make technical information fun and accessible to everyone.

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