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Weather's impact on migraines

Shelley Steeves, reporter

July 12, 2011 — Migraine sufferers believe there's a link between weather and the onset of their migraines. Is there any scientific evidence to prove this case?

Many migraine sufferers take medication to treat their pain
Many migraine sufferers take medication to treat their pain

As soon as the weather turns hot and humid, Susan Blackmun's head pain becomes almost unbearable.

“It means that I am going to be waking up every morning around 4 or 4:30 am with a migraine without a doubt,” says Blackmun.

It's a problem she's faced since she was 12 years old.

“For me, this humidity is when it comes on. It pretty much feels like a mixing bowl filled with cement turned over my head and it stays there.”

Dr. Weston is a neurologist who specializes in treating migraines and he says Susan is not alone. Many of his patients are convinced changes in the weather trigger their pain.

“Many of my patients tell me a sudden change in the barometric pressure, a storm blowing in suddenly, or bright sunshine and days out at the beach with the reflection of the sun off the water may cause their headaches,” explains Dr. Weston.

Doctors believe there is no clear cut link to weather and migraines
Doctors believe there is no clear cut link to weather and migraines

Several Canadian studies over the last few decades do point to the weather as a possible trigger for migraines, while other studies show no link between pain and weather at all.

“I think at this point it's safe to say there is not a clear cut link,” notes Dr. Weston.

But Susan says she doesn't need a study to know the weather definitely influences her pain.

“I can feel a thundershower coming, I can feel the pressure on my head. If there's a big change I can feel not just the humidity, even in the winter if there is a big change coming it's the same thing.”

Sometimes medication is the only thing that helps migraine sufferers function.

“If they have their acute medication on them they can take it when they feel the headache coming on and quite often that can be effective at shortening the duration and the severity of their attack,” says Dr. Weston.

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