Symptoms, Triggers

Clouds Roll In, Migranie Ratchets Up

Clouds, not barometric pressure or weather changes, seem to make my pain and other migraine symptoms worse. It doesn’t track with conventional wisdom on weather triggers for migraine, but the correlation couldn’t be more obvious for me.

These past two weeks in Seattle have been marvelously illustrative. I’ve felt best on the few totally clear days. More common is a solidly overcast  morning sky with clouds that burn off in the early afternoon. I feel worse when there are clouds and better when they clear. Period.

I wake up in the morning and know it is overcast based on how my head feels (I’m sleeping in a basement, so I don’t have the light as an obvious clue). The pain starts to let up and I look outside to discover the clouds are clearing. Within an hour of the clouds clearly completely, I’m back to my baseline pain or just above it and have more energy and less brain fog. The same is true when the morning starts out clear and clouds roll in later in the day.

My mood and food cravings also track with the clouds and my pain levels. I feel generalized depression (rather than sad about a specific event or thought), have free-floating anxiety, and worry more; I also crave sugar and carbs. I’m guessing these are symptoms that kick into gear when the migraine is more severe. They are definitely symptoms I experienced regularly when my migraines were more severe on a daily basis than they’ve been in the last year. While I’m well aware of seasonal affective depression, I understand it to be a longer term phenomenon than just a cloudy few hours.

One day last week did fit the belief that weather and/or pressure changes trigger migraine attacks. A thunderstorm, a rare event for the Seattle-area, brought a level 6 migraine, the worst mine get these days (knock on wood). WeatherSpark tells me there was also a dip in barometric pressure that day. Otherwise, the barometric pressure variations have been minimal and the migraines, while annoying and moderately painful, haven’t been too disruptive.

It seems weird that clouds could have such an impact, but I’ve been practicing listening to my body and tracking very carefully. I have no doubt there’s a correlation for me. Anyone have enough atmospheric science knowledge to speculate a connection? Anyone else experience this seemingly odd phenomenon?

7 thoughts on “Clouds Roll In, Migranie Ratchets Up”

  1. It’s the dark clouds for me. The ones that make rain. It changes the pressure and humidity, and I get a migraine for as long as those dark clouds are hanging in the sky. Through a functional medicine doctor’s advice (not a neurologist) I started taking magnesium & riboflavin supplements and it’s helped to lessen the frequency of my migraines.

    1. Orchid, I’m so glad you’ve found some relief. Magnesium and riboflavin are both frequently recommended by headache specialists. I just took my first riboflavin dose today!

      Take care,

  2. When I was in my teens and 20s especially, I always felt achey, pressure when I got in a car during cloudy/rainy days. I believe that it was because back then, I had chronic low-level migraine and the glare of the white clouds and low pressure exacerbated the migraine that was already there. Now that I have taken dietary steps (mainly) to lessen the frequency, I can ride in a car on such days and actually feel “normal”. I still find it surprising to not feel affected. Of course, if I happen to have a migraine, I will feel like the old me.

  3. I find your discussion very interesting and thought provoking, Kerrie. When we lived on the coast in Souther California, the June gloom (similar to the cloud cover you are describing here) was my enemy. I am not an expert on the atmospheric science but I will share what I have learned. It seems our brains (migraineurs) don’t like the changes in pressure and for some of us, even the slightest change like clouds, can trigger an attack. Some think it might be related to changes in our blood vessels in response to oxygen demand. More recent studies link it to our oversensitive neurons and perhaps involvement with the hypothalamus as many of the symptoms we experience up to 48 hours before the onset of headache are regulated by the hypothalamus. Some of these you have mentioned, but here are a few more: sleep disturbances, changes in wakefulness, and alertness, changes in mood, craving for food, thirst, and fluid retention.
    What I found to be most helpful was to learn to balance the energy inside my body (calm my sympathetic nervous system) through acupuncture, meditation biofeedback, and regular exercise. It seems when I became more balanced in my internal environment, the outside became less troublesome. Hope this helps some :).

  4. I am having this exact issue today in the NorCal area. It has been overcast all day and my pain will not let up. Over the years I’ve come to realize I will, 9 times out of 10, have a migraine and light/sound sensitivity on cloudy days. I also have more anxiety and generalized depression on these days. Thankfully there are not a LOT of cloudy days in Cali, but my husband wants us to move to the Seattle area next year closer to his parent’s – I can’t imagine putting up with so many cloudy days. I would be rendered useless!

    1. I relate exactly with what the lady said about the marine layer. And I also moved to Seattle three years ago and I didn’t last but a couple of months. It’s even worse than the Bay Area. But I am excited that there are other people experiencing the exact same thing as I do. Now if we can only find out what to do about it? Scott

  5. Interesting I have found in the past that wind is a factor for my migraines.I am going to track the clouds and see if they also have an affect on me. Thanks for sharing. Always a good , interesting read.. Cheers!

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