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What About Weather Triggers Migraine Attacks?

News articles and information sources brush “weather” as a migraine trigger with a maddeningly broad stroke. What, exactly, about weather triggers migraines? “Very high temperature, very low temperature, high humidity, low humidity, and barometric pressure change” are the weather features that trigger attacks, according to Cleveland Clinic headache specialist Dr. Stuart Tepper. Great, even the specifics are annoyingly broad!

The Arizona monsoon season, which produces frequent thunderstorms from July to mid-September, was a big concern when we decided to move back to Phoenix. In my ideal world, I’d spend July and August soaking up the glory of Seattle summers, but that’s not exactly in the budget now that we’ve started our own business. Fortunately, both last summer and this year wonderful people have offered me places to stay, either as a guest or house sitter.

Figuring out where to go based on weather factors is proving quite difficult. Clouds and rain are the most obvious weather markers connected to my migraine attacks, but it seems unlikely that clouds themselves are the trigger. It is more plausible that barometric pressure is at fault, but, even though WeatherSpark provides terrific graphical data, I haven’t been able to correlate attacks with either high or low pressure or changes in pressure. Also, the headache specialist I saw in Boston told me that if barometric pressure were the issue, flying would trigger migraine attacks for me, which it doesn’t.

Do I go to the town with steady barometric pressure but high cloud cover? Or the city that has a short cloud cover each afternoon? What about the place that is windy? I can’t decide. For now, I’ll continue to input cities and towns into WeatherSpark and compare the variables. I’m tempted to wait it out in Phoenix this year so I can see how monsoon season really affects me, if it does at all. At least I wouldn’t have to be apart from my husband for two months that way.

7 Responses to What About Weather Triggers Migraine Attacks?

  1. Diana Lee says:

    It really is maddening that we don’t know more about how this works. Of course, it could very well be that we’re all so different it varies widely from patient to patient.

    Also, I think it’s more the changes that bothers us that high or low pressure specifically. Our brains get so angry about any kind of change.

  2. Antonia says:

    I live in Vancouver. Over the past five years, my migraines have accelerated to four times weekly. The weather has changed significantly during this time . We have had ongoing rain since late October of last year with occasional few days of sun. Grr. Great blog. Thanks.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I live in Phoenix, and the warm weather overall is a migraine trigger for me, so the summers are worse. Spending a day outside, even just driving around and running errands can trigger an attack. In monsoon season, I can count on a severe migraine the day before a rainstorm. In the winter, though, my attacks are much less frequent and severe. It’s very frustrating to try so hard to prevent other triggers, and then have something like weather knock me out of commission.

  4. Kristie says:

    I have lived in all climates and various pressure and guess what? I have had my Migraines in every single one.

  5. Thanks for your comments. I think Diana’s onto something — we’re all so different that it is difficult to narrow down the list. If only it were possible for each individual to sort it out for themselves!

    Warm weather is definitely a big one. I try to run my errands after dark. When I have to go out during the day, I get my husband to start the car cooling a few minutes before I need to go out. I daydream about a remote starter and tinted windows!

    Take care, everyone!

    Kerrie

  6. Mary says:

    I’m not a TCM doctor, but I know that according to traditional Chinese medicine, there are two important kinds of migraines and migraine sufferers (it doesn’t necessarily matter if you have migraines with or without aura, what your triggers are or the frequency of your attacks). One group reacts badly to stress and often has high blood pressure. I guess this group is very susceptible to build-ups of air pressure and could be worse in the extreme heat. The other group tends to have sluggish circulation and usually suffers more from migraine attacks in very COLD weather.

    So I guess you need to know more about your migraines to know the perfect climate for you.

    I spent a year once in a remote 3rd world city in an extremely humid climate most people found unbearable: cold, damp winters and summers where the mercury rarely dropped below 35 degrees C from May to October. And in all that time, I (a chronic migraine sufferer) had only ONE, relatively mild attack. Someone later suggested that the climate was altering my blood flow in a somewhat similar manner to the triptan effect.

  7. Lisa says:

    Hey Kerrie, this is a little off topic, but you mentioned you saw a specialist in Boston. I live in NY at the moment but as I’m from Boston there is the possibility of living there again in the future. If you had a positive experience with that specialist could you let me know their name. Feel free to email me. Thanks!

    It’s raining here and of course I have a migraine, but who knows if there’s a connection!

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