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HeadWay Issue #225 - Weather - but not today's weather...
July 21, 2023

In this issue:

Weather! But not today's weather...

Say what?! Barometric Pressure

Weather! But not today's weather...

Weather is complex. Migraine is complex. And so there are a lot of reasons why it's been hard to nail down a simple relationship between the two.

That is to say - it's clear that there is a link. But there seem to be various points of connection that affect individuals differently.

A new study once again confirms the connection, but with an interesting twist. It seems that weather from previous days has a significant impact for some people.

So let's take a quick look at how this study was done.

Compared to most weather and migraine studies, this was large and long-term. It measured hospital emergency admissions against certain weather patterns. A simple but effective way to see how weather affects migraine.

The researchers found that a certain subset of migraine patients were indeed very sensitive to weather. But what kind of weather?

This is the interesting part:
  • Barometric pressure drop two days before
  • A rise in humidity two days before
  • A rise in temperature one day before
But we might want to think of this all together. First, a drop in pressure and rise in humidity are related, and it's not unusual for temperature to rise the next day.

One of the study's authors, Dr Costanza Sottani, pointed out that "it is not about absolute values or specific degrees, but really about the sudden changes."

It's not so much a certain temperature, but more about the change. And about a weather pattern. And the pattern seems to repeat and repeat for certain patients.

One more thing to remember. The study is not saying that a migraine attack starts after a warm day. It's saying that, after a certain weather pattern, certain patients go to emergency. Which means that the attack may have started a day or two before.

A study back in 1981 suggested that weather with low pressure, the passage of a warm front, high temperature and humidity, and often overcast skies, was a trigger.

So it seems that a certain pattern of weather changes does indeed affect migraine, especially if those changes are sudden.

Changes like these, of course, are likely to be more extreme further from the equator, except in situations like hurricanes in tropical zones.

Although this doesn't totally narrow down the specifics of timing, it does once again show that the connection that many people have claimed for decades is a real one.

If you are a weather-watcher and can see trouble coming, it's a good time to limit your exposure to other things that could make an attack worse for you. Speaking from personal experience as well as experience with wider evidence, I can say that minimizing other migraine triggering factors can lessen symptoms during weather fronts.

A summary of the study is in this article: Study confirms impact of weather variations on migraine

Say what?! Barometric Pressure

Perhaps the most discussed individual weather link with migraine is barometric pressure (atmospheric pressure). This refers to the pressure of the air - the weight of the atmosphere over a certain point of the earth.

The challenge for pressure/health studies is that this is part of a complex system. Dropping pressure is realated to air movement, may lead to rain and stormy weather, after which there may be an increase in temperature. All these changes, and even our response to them (do we spend more time outside and forget to drink enough water when the weather warms up again? Do we stay indoors more during stormy weather? What about lightning?), make specifics hard to measure.

Here's an interesting article about some of the effects of atmospheric pressure: How Barometric Pressure Works: 4 Impacts of Atmospheric Changes
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