Dr. Brian Lum
Weather-Related Pain And Migraines: Why They Happen And What To Do
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
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
Tips to Decrease Weather Related Pain
1. Drink Lemon Water
A congested liver will increase your inflammatory load and contribute to pain in any area of the body.
A half of a lemon with 16 ounces of filtered water in the morning is a great way to assist the liver in eliminating toxins. If you have a history of chronic urinary tract infections or have interstitial cystitis - you may want to skip this one as citrus can sometimes exacerbate symptoms.
2. Activated Charcoal
Taking 2-4 capsules of charcoal can reduce pain symptoms related to weather. This is because often, one of the many factors contributing to your pain is a food trigger or undiagnosed food sensitivity or allergy.
Charcoal can help your body escort out food allergens. Activated charcoal is NOT to be used in cases of severe allergy or anaphylaxis reaction instead of your emergency medication.
If you are prone to muscle cramps this may not be a solution for you as this can deplete your mineral levels and make your muscle cramps worse.
3. High Quality Curcumin Supplementation
Lowers general inflammation and inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases. It can lessens the pain and frequency of migraines.
4. High Quality, Third Party Tested Omega 3 Supplementation
Lowers overall inflammation levels and lubricates joints. This supplement can also lessens the pain and frequency of migraines.
5. Get 8+ Hours of Sleep
Along with drinking enough water this is another foundation of good health that is usually ignored. In short, sleep deprivation makes everything harder for your body.
Detoxification, muscle recovery, digestion, stress management are just a few things that are impaired when you don't sleep enough. Pain sensitivity is also increased as a result of sleep deprivation.
6. Keep A Journal
Track how you feel, check in multiple times a day. Keep track of your stress level, sleep quality, and diet as well as any additional symptoms.
It may surprise you how quickly a pattern arises that coincides with your pain levels - weather can be one contributing factor but that are usually others.
Weather Isn't the Problem
It is entirely possible go from dreading weather changes to having no symptoms whatsoever. Despite article after article claiming there is nothing you can do - there is.
My wife is a good example, she used to have debilitating weather-related migraines. After addressing her underlying conditions she hasn't had a migraine in years.
Autoimmunity and other forms of chronic illness exists on a spectrum in an individual.
In the case of chronic illness, poor lifestyle and dietary habits and a few underlying conditions can make the difference between 'unbearable' to 'barely noticeable.'
The true indicator of health is not the absence of symptoms but the strength of the body to adapt to all forms of stress including weather changes.
If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, chronic illness or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.
My clinic offers functional medicine appointments as well as manual chiropractic treatments. I do online consultations for those out-of-state or outside of the United States.
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