MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As a meteorologist one of the most popular health and weather questions we get asked is, why do I get a headache before it rains and while its raining. Studies have found that its all about the barometric pressure.
When barometric pressure decreases, (weight of the atmosphere) it creates a difference in pressure between the air around you and your sinuses cavities, and the inner ear.
How fast these changes in pressure occur, can cause pain, especially in small, confined, air-filled areas of your body, like your sinuses and ear tubes.
That same pressure change is felt when you fly. As the pressure changes when the plane goes up in altitude, you may experience your ears popping from that change.
The pressure change may also cause blood vessels to dilate and abnormal blood flow to the brain, which can increase your chance of a headache or a migraine.
It doesn’t have to be a big change in pressure to cause headaches. One study in 2015, found that even small drops in the pressure caused migraines. An area of low pressure in the atmosphere is often to blame because it causes a dip in pressure and rain or sometimes thunderstorms.
Scientists studied over 7,000 patients that were diagnosed with barometric headaches in Boston between 2000 and 2007. They were also combining data from the National Weather Service to see if there was a correlation in changes in temperature, humidity and barometric pressure within a 3-day time frame.
Scientists found that an increase in temperature was tied to an increase in headaches and they also discovered headaches increased by an average of 6 percent with dips in barometric pressure.
Atmospheric and weather changes associated with headaches include:
- sudden increases in temperature or humidity
- sudden drops in temperature or humidity
- very high or low temperature or humidity
- most storm systems
- strong wind systems
- changes in altitude
Low pressure in the atmosphere typically produces clouds and rain and the moisture increases pain and stiffness. The reason that the moisture may increase pain is that the drop in pressure in the atmosphere allows bodily fluids to go from blood vessels to tissues, which can cause swelling and pressure on the nerves in those tissues. It can increase the fluid in the affected joints. The additional pressure on the nerves and joints can cause more pain, stiffness and can reduce mobility.
According to experts weather contributes to increased pain in a number of ways:
- Blood Flow: Cold temperatures cause blood to be diverted to the body core (chest and abdomen) and so there is reduced blood flow to muscles (stiffness).
- Activity: People are not as active in cold weather, thus joints and muscles don’t get as much blood flow. Blood flow provides nutrients to tissues and helps to get rid of toxins.
- Hormones: In cold weather, the thyroid gland has work harder to keep the body temperature up. As we get older, we have less reserve in the thyroid gland, and so will make us colder. This is why, some elderly people keep the heat cranked up in their homes.
- Immune System: In cold weather, we are more likely to gain weight, because we eat more carbohydrates and fatty foods. The immune system surrounds the GI tract, and a poor diet can cause a general state of inflammation in the body, which can activate certain chemicals in the body. Low levels of Vitamin D are often associated with immune system dysfunction.
- Cloudy and short days: Some people develop what is commonly known as SAD Seasonal Associative Disorder
Experts say the best way to prevent headaches due to barometric pressure is to be aware of your headache patterns. The sooner you recognize the pattern of when a headache will occur, the faster you can treat or stop it.
If you take a medicine to help with the pain that your doctor has prescribed, make sure to take it as soon as you feel a headache coming on in order to prevent the headache from becoming a severe migraine. Experts warn that there could be other symptoms other than head pain like, ringing in your ears, or nausea.
Take care of your body