Updated: Sep 2
Headaches, migraines, joint pain and old injury 'flare ups' that accompany weather changes are very common.
Generally, the belief is that you can only 'deal with' these symptoms until they pass because, after all, you can't change the weather.
Rather than the weather 'causing' you pain, it is changes in your environment that is making inflammation in your body increase to the point of pain.
The problem isn't really with the weather, the weather just makes a hidden problem reveal itself.
We'll cover environmental allergens in a future post - for now, its all about windy days, cold fronts and stormy spring mornings.
Whether you suffer from migraines, joint pain, stiffness, arthritis or the pain of an old injury, let's explore the few theories as to why it is happening and what you can do to minimize your symptoms.
Changes in Barometric Pressure Can Cause Pain
With a change in season comes the barometric pressure changes associated with weather fronts of cold or warm air.
A study that tracked the sale of headache medications concluded that headache pain surges at the same time as drops in barometric pressure. Other small studies conclude the same, barometric pressure changes are correlated with increases in pain.
But why? It may be that barometric changes lead to a serotonin/dopamine imbalance or the migraines reported are actually sinus infections and the pain reported is caused by the increase of pressure in the sinus cavity.
What is most likely is that a few factors are conspiring to cause the pain - the weather is the trigger.
Finding your particular combination of factors requires you to look at your diet, lifestyle, medical conditions, family history, and stress level, to name a few.
Temperature swings as well as temperature extremes can cause a wide variety of reactions - from dizziness, headaches, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, migraines, joint pain and fibromyalgia symptoms.
It may be that cold weather can thicken the fluid that protects your joints, making it harder (and more painful) for them to move.
It may also be that the extreme cold or heat exacerbates and underlying inflammatory condition, leading to increased pain.
Inflammation + Stressor = Pain
While the exact mechanism for everyone can be different, one thing I have noticed is that the weather is not the actual cause.
Just as the intestinal irritation caused by a food sensitivity is not caused by the food itself but rather an underlying condition like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) - similarly, weather-related pain is just inflammation that has been kept at bay.
The weather just pushed it to the point of symptoms.
Getting to the Root Cause to Reduce Pain
There is a wide range of underlying conditions that can make pain worse.
If your pain is arthritic in nature then my first priority would be to reduce your body's inflammation so that your symptoms are less overall (including during times when the weather changes.)
If the pain you experience is chronic migraines, then I would need to ascertain the underlying cause of your high levels of inflammation - it may be a hormonal imbalance coupled with an undiagnosed food allergy which keeps your body on the brink of pain.
In this situation, your body is almost always on the brink of a migraine, the weather is simply another trigger.
Read more about Headaches and Migraines <