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Barometric Pressure And Headaches

Apr 22, 2008
Do you suffer from barometric pressure and headaches? What in the world is that? Well when the clouds roll in and the pressure drops, you know what I mean! Your head begins throbbing as the day goes on.

Unfortunately, when this happens, many people think they are getting a sinus headaches. Sadly,this usually isn't the case. What you are really getting is migraine. The throbbing can be on one side or the other or even both! Up to 40% of all migraines are centered around the forehead and nose which is why you think you are getting 'sinus".

Just about any migraine sufferer can tell you when the pressure is dropping or when the humidity is high, as a migraine will hit pretty soon. At the present time, scientists are not quite sure as to why this happens. (No..it's not the full moon!)

A couple of theories have been put forth. One neurologist posed that changes in the barometric pressure could cause small pressure changes in the fluid in your brain. This could set off those migraine receptors in the brainstem.

Several years ago, at an APA (American Psychiatric Association) meeting, Dr.Mindlin of Jefferson Medical College thought perhaps this type of migraine was due to dilation of blood vessels caused by pressure changes.

This idea is a bit complex, as the vessels dilate during a migraine no matter what the cause. The basic theory here is that the barometric receptors in the brain (which regulate blood pressure when you stand up and change position) might also be affected by atmospheric pressure changes. As the pressure drops, perhaps these receptors are activated and cause vasodilation in the head and therefore, headaches.

None of this has been proven yet, but those of us with migraines are getting to the point where we can predict the weather almost as good as the arthritis patients!!

How Do We Manage Barometric Migraine?

There are a few ways you can manage headaches caused by pressure changes.

1. If you are taking daily medication, like anti-seizure medications, you could consider increasing the dose slightly when the weatherman says the pressure will change. By going up one dose for a few days, and then coming back down, this may blunt the oncoming headache.

2. Increase your magnesium intake. I advise patients to go up by 200-400 mg per day during this time.This too might help blunt the headaches during this time.

3. At the onset of the headache, take your medication as fast as you can. If you are taking triptans (like Imitrex), add Naprosyn or Aleve to the mix. These drugs have a longer mode of action and may stay in your system long enough for the weather to blow over!

4. Exercise! By doing aerobic exercise you raise seratonin and endorphins which may blunt the headache. Besides if the weather is bad and you can't go outside, might as well do something productive.

Hopefully one of these suggestions will ease your migraine, and will help you to have more headache free days.
About the Author
Mary Kay Betz, MS RPA-C is a practicing Physician Assistant in neurology and headache medicine. Read more at www.headache-adviser.com
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