Do you know anyone that says that they can predict the weather based on how their joints feel, or perhaps they know that a weather front is going to be coming through because they have a migraine? I think most of us know someone, if not ourselves, who can relate to this phenomenon. Interestingly enough, there are conflicting studies linking weather as a cause for joint, headache or migraine pain despite people’s claims of this connection.
When we consider increases in joint pain, there are several theories that may explain increases in joint pain with changes in weather. One is that as barometric pressure changes with the arrival or departure of weather fronts, there is a corresponding change in pressure on the synovial fluid that is in our joints. As the pressure of the fluid changes, our sensation of joint pain can change. The other theory around increased joint pain, particularly during inclement weather, is that when the weather is bad we tend to move less (who wants to go out and do things when it’s crummy out, right?!). Decreased movement (for any reason) actually increases joint pain, as movement is what keeps the joints lubricated with synovial fluid.
Migraines are a bit different, and people seem to be sensitive to a variety of weather triggers. These can include: bright sunlight, extremes of temperatures, glare, too humid, not humid enough, wind, storms, and changes in barometric pressure (particularly when there is a large drop). We are not completely sure why changes in weather can trigger migraine in some people, but scientists speculate that it changes levels of chemicals in the brain (particularly serotonin) which ultimately results in migraine.
It’s important to realize that weather is not a trigger for all people with migraine. And, mild weather changes might need to occur at the same time as exposure to another trigger, like a particular food, in order for it to be significant. How do you know what triggers your migraines? The best way is to keep a journal of your symptoms for at least 4-6 weeks. Record your headache symptoms each day, nutrition, weather, and sleep habits. By consistently doing this, you can work with your healthcare provider to find patterns to your migraines and identify your own migraine triggers. And, we at Smith Balance + Concussion Center are always here to help answer your questions!