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Can Weather Changes Cause a Migraine?

Many migraine sufferers report weather changes as a migraine headache trigger, but is there a scientific link?

Many migraine sufferers have a running list of things that could potentially spark a migraine headache, with weather changes serving as one of the most commonly reported migraine triggers. In fact, one survey 1 found that 43 percent of migraine patients listed weather changes as a trigger, second only to stress (which came in at 62 percent).

While some studies have noted an association between weather and migraine attacks, others have failed to show any link. For example, one recent study showed that, in a subset of patients, lower temperature and higher relative humidity correlated with the onset of a migraine. 2

Similarly, another study found that weather change was associated with migraine headache development in 18 of 28 (64 percent) patients, 14 of whom reported low barometric pressure to be a cause of headache. 3 On the other hand, in a comprehensive diary study analyzing 20,553 patient days recorded by 238 patients with migraine, the researchers were unable to show any major connection between weather conditions and migraine occurrence. 4

So what can we make of these inconclusive study findings? Does it mean that migraine suffers who believe weather may be causing their migraine attacks are mistaken? Not necessarily. Migraine triggers vary from person to person, and a single trigger won’t necessarily cause a migraine every single time you’re exposed to it.5 A combination of migraine triggers may be more likely to bring on an attack.6

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1. Robbins L. Precipitating factors in migraine: a retrospective review of 494 patients. Headache. 1994 Apr;34(4):214-6. PubMed PMID: 8014037. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8014037

2. Hoffmann J1, Lo H, Neeb L, Martus P, Reuter U. Weather sensitivity in migraineurs. J Neurol. 2011 Apr;258(4):596-602. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065635/

3. Kelman L. The triggers or precipitants of the acute migraine attack. Cephalalgia 2007; 27: 394–402. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17403039

4. Zebenholzer K1, Rudel E, Frantal S, Brannath W, Schmidt K, Wöber-Bingöl C, Wöber C. Migraine and weather: a prospective diary-based analysis. Cephalalgia. 2011 Mar;31(4):391-400. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21112983

5. American Headache Society. Information for Patients. Headache Hygiene— What Is It? Trigger Avoidance. https://americanheadachesociety.org/trigger-avoidance-information/

6. American Migraine Foundation. About Migraine: What Is Migraine? https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/what-is-migraine/

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