suffering from weather-induced headaches

The other morning I woke at dawn to excrutiating head pain.

The best way to describe it would be to say that my brain felt like a bell being struck by a tiny hammer or tiny lightning bolts, and perhaps that was what I should have said when I phoned in sick to work, but what I actually said was something along the lines of "I can't come in today, my brain feels like it's being squeezed and it hurtssssssss".

Not the most articulate of expressions, though I guess at 6:24am and while afflicted with squeezy brain pain it's just not that easy to describe the odd functioning of ones brain, let alone to give the actual explanation without sounding completely mad:

that the pain you are experiencing is caused by the weather.

On my self certification form, as my reason for absence I wrote that I had had "excrutiating head pain caused by changes in barometric pressure". The office manager glared at me as I handed it over, and I wanted to explain how it felt using my bell analogy, but the look on her face was enough to warn me against doing so.

I've written before about how the weather affects me, but this weird air pressure thing is different from what I was describing last time, this is actual pain caused by the pressure of the air, rather than just something psychological.

It's hard to describe the feeling of pressure inside my head during one of these attacks, but this illustration does a pretty good job...

While researching what exactly was going on in my head, I found out about a study that took place in 1981 which found that the number of migraines and headaches people were suffering from increased during certain types of weather: low pressure, warm fronts, high temperatures, humidity and overcast skies. These types of headaches are known as barometric pressure headaches.

Barometric pressure is simply the pressure of the air, which can be affected by a whole bunch of different atmospheric changes and movements of weather fronts. When the weather changes suddenly, or the pressure in the air suddenly falls, it can cause the blood vessels in your brain to become inflamed and irritated, and it's this which causes the insane pain.

Sometimes barometric pressure-type headaches are known as 'altitude headaches' named so because the higher up you are, the lower the air pressure, and it's this fall in air pressure which most often causes the headaches. It's not a completely accurate description, since most people who are afflicted get these headaches no matter how high up they may be, but it's a pretty good way of explaining it for people who've not experienced them. 

From my own experience it's the weather just before a storm is due that is the most significant trigger - I start to feel light-headed and dizzy and my head starts pounding. No amount of over-the-counter medication can make it go away and I just have to lock myself away and try to sleep through it when it gets that bad. As soon as the storm is over I always feel better, and it's this feeling of relief after a storm which has led people to believe that the heightened electrical charge in the air may also have play a part in causing these types of headaches.

Many people claim to be able to tell when certain types of weather are due from the feelings in their bones or "in their waters", and it seems that I can do so through the pain in my head. I think I'd rather have either of the other two options - it sounds a lot less painful!

Do the changes in the weather affect any of you?
Can you sense when a storm is due?

5 hellos:

Claire said...

I'm so sorry you're feeling ill, sweetheart. I hope the sun comes back soon.

I'm not majorly affected by the weather, but I can smell snow.

Vixie said...

I'm feeling a lot better now the temperature has dropped, woop! Oooh, I wish snow was due, that would make me a happy bear :)

Siobhan said...

I get much milder headaches when a storm is coming. I can smell the rain too before it falls. And my knees get bad.

I only get bad headaches if I already have sinusitis. I do feel for you - this stormy weather must be making these happen a LOT.

Anonymous said...

In NZ the weather is blamed for causing headaches and all kinds of other things. In Christchurch the prevailing wind is NE, but after that the most common wind is the infamous Nor'wester.

This from Wikipedia:
About 10 percent of people affected by the nor’wester feel elated and wonderful. But the rest feel depressed, irritable, and lacking energy. People feel they can’t cope with everyday things. ... There is irrational anxiety and a sense of foreboding.

The Nor'wester has a deep psychological effect on many people subjected to its hot, dry nature. It has been statistically linked to increases in suicide and domestic violence.[3] Research by the environmental scientist Neil Cherry indicated that the mechanism is a significant buildup of positive ions, strongest somewhat inland from the coast, and electric fields of this strength have been shown to upset the melatonin/serotonin balance in some people.

Vixie said...

It's not great fun, this crazy summer weather we're having, but I've never heard of the nor'wester, that sounds absolutely terrible :/ it's pretty fascinating though, how the weather can affect people in different ways.

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