Hurricanes, Pain, Migraines & Change
Migraine.com is alive with articles about the impact of weather on migraines. Still, with the gigantic 900-mile wide hurricane that swept through several southern states recently, I can’t help but think about how many people in the world were struggling with migraine pain on top of simply trying to survive the storm surge, high winds and flooding.
So many people with migraines feel like human barometers. We can feel the weather changing before it is even predicted. And it’s not just an increase in pain when a storm is coming. Pain can come when the storm is leaving too.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of 40 years navigating life with this condition: migraines LOVE change. Change is like fuel or nourishment for migraines, without which the condition might not otherwise thrive. Whether a shift in hormones, a change in sleep schedule, changes in stress at home or work, or a change in barometric pressure – and whether it be from high to low, or vice versa, whatever the case, it affects migraines. It is the nature of the swing itself; change is the match that lights our migraines on fire.
If we believe in the concept of change as a driving force for migraine, then it would follow that one solution to quiet the condition would be remove all sources of change from our lives. Perhaps we could move to part of the world where the climate is as neutral as it gets. No big swings in terms of temperature, humidity, or storms. Women who struggle with hormonal migraines could seek an early hysterectomy in hopes of stopping the monthly changes in their cycle. Or they could wait until they reach menopause for the same goal.
For those of us facing high-level stress in our jobs, perhaps we would stop working because our migraines appear to be a call and response to our daily demands. Whatever the case, we could do our best to remove all sources of transition and attempt to live in the most regimented and regulated of ways.
Well guess what? Been there, done that. One of our featured writers relocated from Seattle to Arizona to seek a calmer more stable and dry climate. And while she experienced an initial improvement from the move, her pain soon resurfaced. As far as seeking an early hysterectomy for relief of hormonal migraine is concerned, the statistics aren’t great. Studies show that early entry into menopause actually leads to 2/3 of people experiencing a worsening of their migraines with only 1/3 improving.
I can personally attest to the fact that removing a stressful job from the mix does not necessarily mean that migraines will lift. For me, leaving work did not change the frequency or severity of my pain or related symptoms.
Try as we might, living in a completely controlled environment is both unattainable and will not necessarily provide that highly sought-after shelter from migraines. So, the question becomes: what can we do? The truth is that there are no easy answers and no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to migraine. It is very helpful to gain as much clarity as possible as to your particular triggers (be they weather or stress-related, hormonal, or tied to sensitivities to food, etc.). Some triggers can be avoided and others cannot. The millions of us living in the southeast couldn’t avoid Hurricane Matthew, for instance. So we return to those important basics that include working with a headache specialist to create a tailor-made treatment protocol, and having a support system to provide perspective and warmth when migraines get us down. And maybe we consider a career change to become a forecaster?
Can you predict weather changes before they happen? Are barometric pressure shifts a trigger for your migraines?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?