When I was a child, I can remember my grandmother saying that she knew when a storm was coming because her arthritis would always start hurting. Fast-forward 30 years, and here I am a 40 year old woman who can tell if a change in the weather is going to occur within 300 miles of wherever I am located.
I haven’t always been effected by barometric pressure changes. Growing up in the Southeast United States it’s common to have VERY crazy weather patterns. It hasn’t been until my husband and I moved from Oregon to North Carolina that I noticed a MAJOR difference in my migraine attacks in correlation to drastic increases or decreases in the barometric pressure.
Barometric pressure can be simply defined as the air pressure within the atmosphere. A sharp change in this pressure can excacerbate some conditions; with headache or migraine being one of them. According to a NY Times Article, which interviewed Dr. Matthew Fink of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center:
"Differences in air pressure because of the weather or changes in altitude can have noticeable effects on the human body, though some people are more sensitive than others. Low barometric pressure can cause headaches by creating a pressure difference between the surrounding atmosphere and the sinuses, which are filled with air"
In a study that was published by the Journal of Internal Medicine, it was found that barometric pressure change can be one of the exacerbating factors of migraine headaches.
So maybe my grandmother wasn’t crazy when she could feel the weather coming! I know for certain that where I live currently has made a significant impact on my migraine frequency and duration. Which is frustrating when in fact it is an “act of God” which is causing your attacks to continue to happen.
Over the past 2.5 years, I have been trying to figure out ways to manage my migraine attacks according to the weather patterns. Here are a few tips that I have come up with—if you too are plagued with “weather migraine” attacks.
Download a barometric pressure app on your phone. My favorite app is also a migraine tracking app as well- Migraine Buddy. It will let you know when there is going to be a significant change in barometric pressure in your area over a 48-hour period. This has been a life saver for me–so that I can plan my “bad days” around my schedule.
Try barometric pressure earplugs. I ordered a pair of WeatherX ear plugs off of amazon to try to see if it would alleviate some of my pain during a weather change. Unfortunately, I have seen little impact on my migraine attack intensity or duration while using the earplugs. But, I also believe I am HIGHLY sensitive to pressure changes–so it might be worth a try.
Try to stay as hydrated as possible—this is important as a chronic migraineur anyways–but I have found it is especially important during weather changes. Making sure that I am constantly keeping myself hydrated (even when I am in pain and DO NOT want to drink water) can help while the storm blows through.
TAKE YOUR ABORTIVE MEDS as soon as you feel the attack beginning! Historically, I am not great about taking my medications soon enough to stop the pain train from leaving the station. What I have learned by having to manage extreme highs and lows of pressure changes in NC is that AS soon as I feel a twinge of an attack–its best to take my medication. The result if not taken in enough time is catastrophic– causing EXTREME pain and usually takes HOURS for my pain to settle down.
If you are a mom like I am, and can see (or feel) a BIG pressure change coming—ask for help. So often, I have “pushed through” which only causes the attack to last even longer. Call a neighbor, babysitter, friend or family member to come give a helping hand during the worst of the attack so you can rest. The thing with weather triggered attacks is they typically (in my case) are fast, furious and intense. By taking the time to look out for me, and allowing myself to rest (when I can)–I typically shake an attack faster. I understand that this is not always possible–but if you can do not be afraid to waive your white flag of defeat and call in help!
As for long term management of such a strong sensitivity to weather patterns, I do not have any answers for that. From the research that I have done there are some areas of the United States that have less volatile pressure changes. At this point my husband and I are exploring all options when it comes to my migraine management, which may include a move. This is not an ideal situation, but with the quality of my life so depleted its worth the risk for me. The hope is that one day my migraine attacks will go from being “chronic” back to being “episodic”—so if we have to make a move to make that happen I am willing to give it a try!
Oh the holidays, admittedly one of my most favorite times of the year, but living with a chronic disease can make it a bit challenging. Through my six years of navigating the “chronic world”, I have found that often people have ZERO ideas what you want/need that would be helpful with your illness. So I put together a list of some of my favorite gifts and stocking stuffers for the chronic migraineur in your life! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Pranamat ($$$)- I LOVE LOVE LOVE my pranamat. A pranamat is essentially an acupressure mat. It works best for those who have a positive response to acupuncture (which I do); to help control the pain. They are a little on the spendy side, but I LOVE mine for a few reasons: its eco conscious; they give you a 30 day money back guarantee, and its portable.
Foam Roller ($$)- If you are like me and neck and back LOCK down during an attack a foam roller is a game changer! I LOVE the one that I have…I purchased off amazon a few years ago and its still in great condition. Overall, this is a great gift to roll out and hit the tight spots in your neck, back., side body and even front. It is a great and inexpensive tool to add to your toolbelt!
THE STICK ($$)- This is yet, another great tool for your toolbelt. I fell in love with this while going through physical therapy for many years post cervical spine surgery. This is great because it can work on any area of your body that feels tight! Here is a link.
Revlon One Step Hair Dryer ($$)- Washing and drying your hair for someone with chronic pain is like running a marathon. I happened upon this little jewel about a month ago and it has cut down on my drying time and saves me some spoons! A great gift for a Spoonie!
Neck Pillow ($$) A good pillow for a migraineur is like GOLD. I suffer from a good bit of neck and back issues and found this pillow. I really like it and so far my neck seems less tense in the morning!
Micrate ($$)-a subscription box of goodies for all your migraine needs! I purchased one of these for a friend and they make AMAZING gifts!
Subscription to audio books ($$-$$$)- Audio books and Podcast have become my saving grace. I love to read, but often reading can really aggravate my pain levels. I found two subscriptions —Audible and Scribd . Scribed is unlimited books per month and is 9.99 a month. I have really enjoyed it thus far—they also have A LOT of new books—which is nice! An audio book subscription would be a great gift for a migraineur!
Comfy clothes/jammies ($$-$$$)- I am a total sucker for cozy, soft jammies/clothes. TjMaxx, Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack always has a good selection of some cozy jammies.
Cozy Slippers ($$-$$$)- I love me some slippers, and a few years ago fell in love with. I picked them up at TJMaxx, but Amazon has a GREAT selection of some cozy slippers–here is one of my favorites.
High Thread Count Cozy Sheets ($$$)- This time of year Macy’s is always running deals on good sheets. My absolute favorite sheets come from Target. They are the Threshold brand- and they are the softest and most cozy sheets I own! Check them out:
Good Quality Sunglasses ($$$-$$$$)– yes these will be expensive BUT so worth the money. I purchased a pair of Costa Del Mar sunnies 10 years ago and am still wearing them. Look for brands that have UVA and UVB protection as well as polarized—these help TREMENDOUSLY with high light sensitivity days. These are the ones I have on my christmas wish list.
Stocking Stuffers for the Migraineur:
Diffuser with peppermint and spearmint oil ($-$$$)- My favorite diffuser I found on Amazon- link here. Peppermint oil and spearmint oil have been found to be wonderful for nausea. BUT this is totally a preference. Some migraineurs do not like the smell–so check and make sure they do not have a serious aversion to the smell. I LOVE buying my oils from Young Living, BUT they can be expensive. I have found some cheaper brands that work just as well and are put through the same quality control as Young Living. You can find the brands on Amazon they are NOW and aura cacia. I prefer the NOW oils—put use what you like, just make sure they are of the highest quality.
epsom salt /baking soda for detox bath ($)- You can purchase both of these items at Walmart or Target–for me this is a game changer to help with muscle tightness.
Journals– ($-$$) I love to journal, and it has actually helped me tremendously with pain management–a cute journal would be a wonderful stocking stuffer!
Good earphones ($$-$$$$)- This will depend on the type of phone you have, but they make wireless ones that are WAY more affordable than the Apple Air Pods, and work just as well. Use your own judgement on what would work best for the individual you are shopping for!
Pampering items ($-$$$)- new nail polish, a fun face mask, shower steamers, bath bombs, favorite teas, a new mug (check out this fun warrior mug) , snuggly socks, rose quartz face roller—anything to make the person feel special and loved—and some items they could use for those self care days!
Wine Wand ($$)- This new product comes HIGHLY recommended from other migraineurs. In fact its on my wish list!
Ice towel ($$)- This ice towel has been a serious GAME CHANGER for me. Its from a company called @koldtec and their towels are amazing. They are getting ready to launch a migraine “Headache Halo”—which is also going to be a total game changer for chronic migraine sufferers.
Lord Jones CBD Products ($$$)- from lotions to tinctures- Lord Jones has you covered with quality hemp based CBD products. Their body lotion is my GO TO for severe neck pain. Would make an excellent stocking stuffer or gift!