Relocating to Reduce Weather Triggers

Have you ever daydreamed about moving to a different climate so you could avoid weather-triggered migraine attacks? I made such a move almost four years ago. While your experience could be different, here’s how it worked out for me.

My chronic migraine went from manageable to severe while I still lived in my hometown, Phoenix. I could still work, but barely. Then I relocated for my husband’s job, moving from Phoenix to Seattle then from Seattle to Boston six years later. Over those years, the migraine attacks became increasingly debilitating until I was housebound and often bedridden. Only after six months in Boston, where the weather changes frequently, did I conclude that weather is definitely a trigger for me. That’s when my husband and I began talking about moving back to Phoenix.

Before making the decision, I took two three-week trips to Phoenix, one in May and one in September. I felt great both times. I still had daily migraine attacks, but could function pretty well and was able to leave the house nearly every day. I went to yoga and saw friends, went out to dinner and shopped in Phoenix’s plethora of thrift shops. The improvement was so drastic that deciding to move was almost a no-brainer.

That huge improvement persisted for the first three months after the move. Then the migraines got bad again. The pain wasn’t as severe as it was in Boston, where it was a level 9 most days and even hit 10 at times (the only time in my life when I’ve rated the pain at a 10). Instead, it hit 7 nearly every day and level 8 pain was pretty common. The nausea that left me gaunt when I was in Seattle and Boston abated enough that I could get back to a healthy weight. But all that going out I did on my visits to Phoenix? It pretty much stopped three months after moving.

Even this relatively small reduction in pain severity and nausea was enough to help me identify more triggers. It was also enough of an improvement that a preventive I took in Boston without success was effective when I tried it again after moving to Phoenix.

Would I make the move again? Yes, but only if I already had friends and family in the new place. I wouldn’t move to a place where I didn’t know anyone, even if the climate were way better for migraine than it is in Phoenix. The rewards are too uncertain and, for me, the risk is too great.

Twice in the time my migraines were severely debilitating, I moved to cities where I didn’t know anyone. Thinking about how hard it was to establish a life in a new city when I was so sick makes me tear up 11 years later. I had no support system in either Seattle or Boston and wasn’t able to nurture new relationships in the way that is required to make them grow. Canceling plans is hard on any friendship; it is almost always deadly for new ones.

Given this, you can probably imagine that I’m hesitant when people ask me whether moving to a different climate would help their migraine attacks. There’s no guarantee that a move will improve the migraines and getting established in a new place when you have severe, frequent migraines is very difficult.

My caution stems from the heartrending experiences I’ve had, but I know of a half dozen migraineurs who have moved to very different climates and had a significant reduction in their migraine frequency and severity. One woman didn’t change climates, but went from a big city to a small town in the mountains, which did the trick for her. However, I’ve heard from at least as many people who moved and had their migraine severity not change or worsen.

“Well, moving might help, but it might not” isn’t exactly a satisfying or illuminating response to the question of relocating to reduce migraine attacks. Unfortunately, as will most things migraine, there is no easy answer. If your life allows for it, an extended visit in another place is the best way to check. A full year is ideal so you can experience all the weather the new location has to provide. Otherwise, you have to follow your instinct – and be wary of the tendency to romanticize your imagined new life or assume you’ll have far fewer migraine attacks after the move. That’s bitten me more times than I care to admit.

Have you relocated to avoid weather-triggered migraine attacks? How much did it help you? Would you do it again?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (16)
  • Bertab
    2 weeks ago

    I too live in Phoenix. And I have thought about moving. I have cogental cervical stenosis, which is greatly affected by summer dust storms. Paired with chronic daily migraine, is a recipe for misery. I’ve lived in Central Texas, South Texas, and Southern Indiana. For me Summer in Phoenix is the worst. I do have a good treatment plan. It’s a work in progress. I have hope that I can live comfortably in my new hometown.

  • Shaggy78
    2 years ago

    The sun is my nemisis and sworn enemy so I was surprised that Phoenix would be a good place for migraines.
    The only place where my migraines seemed to get substantially better was Hawaii but since my migraines have left me unable to work that will never be possible financially. 🙁

  • Shaggy78
    2 years ago

    “Nemesis” not “nemisis”, sorry!

  • Allyoop
    2 years ago

    I live in AZ and barometric pressure is worst when Monsoon season rolls around, but the weather has been unpredictable throughout the year around here. Thus migraines and vertigo are a staple with my head. I can predict when weather is about to change by my head. (Hate it!) I visited my son in Pennsylvania several months ago and I had only 2 migraines while there for two weeks. My head was doing really well. I don’t think I would move to another climate because of migraines unless there was a guarantee of no barometric pressure changes.

  • DeAnna Nieves
    2 years ago

    Phoenix for me has been the worst. During the spring, it’s frequent sinus infections and allergies. During the summer, the monsoon season is really bad with frequent migraines . I lived in Honolulu for two years and never had a problem at all.

    I dream of the day when I could move back to Hawaii!

  • bluebird
    3 years ago

    We’re going to try it! After living in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest for 10 years, and finding my limits with current medical treatments, I’m going to try High Desert with more stable barometer for a few months.
    My partner is willing to give it a try. No existing supports except for each other and a hopeful attitude.
    It has taken courage to take all the different RX over the years. It takes courage to make this move. It takes love and trust and willingness to find adventure while accepting that I have chronic Migraine….

  • larubia66
    4 years ago

    I live in Seattle, and the WORST season for me is spring; it’s all the volatile weather changes and higher temps and humidity. Humidity and heat are MAJOR triggers – it’s been in the upper 80s for over a week, and thankfully most of those days have not been too humid; today was 87 and 32% humidity, and it was FINE – it’s when the humidity gets over 55% that I dread – that’s probably why many folks do better in dry climates. I’ve been drinking a TON of water and staying out of the sun, but I’m wary every day. Just had another Magnesium IV last week, so that is helping – I cannot say enough about how they have helped me – they have reduced my migraines by 90%! I get them thru my Naturopathic doctor, and they REALLY WORK. NO side effects! I’m terribly sensitive to meds, but I am able to take generic Imitrex when I really need it, but the Magnesium IVs have majorly reduced my brutal migraines. Hope this can help people. It’s worth TRYING!

  • mbcpa
    4 years ago

    For the last 40+years, I’ve averaged 2 to 3 migraines/week, living in Houston, Texas (= a couple of inches BELOW sea level). For 4 years in between there, I lived in the mountains of Central America, 5000 feet up, in constant spring-like weather. Not a single migraine, as long as I stayed in the mountains. As soon as I returned to sea-level, my head tried to explode.
    Earlier this month, we took a trip to El Paso — elevation over 4,000 feet. Hotter than hades, but no migraines.

    For me, altitude definitely has something to do with migraines, although no neurologist has ever agreed that altitude – or the lack thereof – would be a trigger. They just roll their eyes when I talk about that phenomenon.

    Unfortunately, relocating is not an option at this point in my life.
    I’d love to hear from other migraineurs who have experienced a relief from migraines due to altitude.

  • larubia66
    4 years ago

    It’s the barometric pressure shifts that are the killer, not the altitude.

  • GailV
    4 years ago

    I recently moved to Phoenix from the Chicago area. I have friends and family in the Phoenix area. And, of course, the weather is radically different. I have been on disability for over a year now. So last summer, I spent the month of July in Arizona to see if I could “take the heat”. Then some great friends and family took turns letting me stay at their homes in January and February. What I learned during this time was that there were plenty of weather changes in Phoenix(at the minimum – year round barometer changes; the maximum is the summer monsoon season). What was different from Chicago is the SUN. It’s always out. So if I had to be in a darkroom for several days, as soon as the migraine broke and I was no longer sensitive to light, I can go outside – year round! In Chicago, the change to warmer weather usually got me and by the time I climbed out of my darkroom, it had turned dismal and rainy or snowing again.

    The number of migraine days I have per month have not changed (14-17). But the quality of life on days I don’t have migraines (even on those postdrome days when I’m sluggish and out of it) is so much better than before. It has really helped with the depression aspect of migraines.

    And in either city, I have good friends and good support systems. So I can say I am very lucky in that aspect.

    As for the migraines themselves, I look forward to the day that they finally understand the real cause and not just “triggers” so they can find a cure.

    Gail

  • Kristine Ullemeyer
    4 years ago

    I live in the Colorado Rockies, I can see from my home the weather approaching because we live on a hill with a wonderful view.. I have often said I want to sell and move to a place were the weather is the same. BUT I will miss my friends, my husband’s business is here. I just have to sit tight and watch the storms roll in. 🙂 I do dream of Palm Springs 😉

  • Willie Love-Winter
    4 years ago

    I recently thought of retiring to a dry climate since the only time I was migraine free in the past year was two months last Summer during a drought here in Minnesota. Then I rethought leaving my grandchildren and again tried a gluten free diet after the non-GMO diet couldn’t stop the daily migraines. I had my first week free of pain in months. Who knows if it’ll last but you try anything after suffering so long and remembering those two months. I’ll dream of dryer climate too but pray for an easier answer than relocating!

  • James
    4 years ago

    I’m glad you’ve found something that helps and I know what it’s like for migraine to impact on the ability to form new friendships.

  • kaysus1973
    4 years ago

    Yes. But it is not possible at all. I live in NW Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Pittsburgh. The tv weather people joke that only here can you experience all 4 seasons in 1 day!

  • Traci
    4 years ago

    Yes, I think about moving to a different, more migraine friendly climate every single day. I can hardly get a good day in, here in Missouri. But, it is not me so much that I am worried about because I am used to not having a social life. I feel like I cannot ask my husband to give up everything for me……the area he has known his whole life, his work, his co workers, our church, our just grown children, etc. to take a chance with me, when I know that a move won’t cure me. I think it would help though. I want to take a long trip like you did but then I think well what if it does help? Then what?

  • tlocker
    2 years ago

    I don’t remember where I read it; but some ‘expert’ cited in US best migraine city, with least variation in pressure as San Diego, CA; the worst is Charleston, SC. So of course the fabulous job for my DH is near Charleston and they have worsened. Previously, I’ve in high desert mountain at 8,000ft dry feet and LOTS of strong sun; in Great Plains with huge seasonal temperature swings. Moving MAY help but wouldn’t plan on it ‘curing’ a migraine.

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