Barometric Headaches - Causes and Treatments

Do you get barometric headaches every time it rains? If so, you know how much pain they cause and how much they make your head pulse... and not in a good way! They can affect your day before you ever get out of bed if a storm comes through overnight. I’ve been getting them for several years but never put two and two together until recently.

Hurricane Irene rain image

This is Hurricane Irene in my backyard in NC. I thought it would NEVER stop raining! My head hurt for 2 days until the barometric pressure rose again!

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The fact is that when the barometric pressure drops, that drop in pressure can cause disruptions in your sinuses, which leads to associated nagging pain in the head. Measurements of the atmospheric pressure frequently coincide with weather conditions and altitude (elevation). Anyone who gets a headache from weather conditions is said to be ‘weather sensitive’.

Until recently, rain headaches (also called atmospheric pressure headaches or weather headaches) we not highly recognized. However, they seem to be on the upswing (in intensity and frequency) because the more our planet heats up, the greater the changes in barometric pressure become, and the more people are complaining about them. According to research done in the past forty years, the change in air pressure may be all it takes to dilate blood vessels and stimulate nerve endings in pain sensitive areas like stiff elbows or creaking bones that have recently been fractured or broken

However, feeling pain right before it rains is nothing new. Throughout history, many older folks have claimed to know when it’s about to rain from the associated pains they feel in their body. It can be from joint pain, head pain, tooth pain, or even pain in the bones. Your grandma telling you to grab an umbrella before you leave the house when it’s bright and sunny outside is a good example!

Also people who suffer from migraines also notice more symptoms when it’s about to rain. If there’s a relatively big drop in pressure, (from hurricanes, tropical lows, northeast storms, (called N’Oreasters), or tornado’s), the pain can get much more intense quickly.

So what’s the answer? Do people have to live in pain or are there things you can do to prevent getting barometric pressure headaches? Here are some suggestions.

headache pain image

Treatments for Barometric Headaches

  • Most people get relief by taking ibuprofen or naproxen. (Use the gel caps cause they work faster!) Trying to prevent a headache (by taking some the night before it rains) doesn’t seem to help much though. They work best after the fact. Unfortunate but true.

  • Magnesium supplements (200-400 mg/day) can give relief for some people too. Some people prefer taking magnesium citrate or malate but all kinds of magnesium can give you diarrhea if you take too much too quickly. For example, Magnesium Oxide is cheaper to produce and buy than Magnesium Citrate but because 96 percent of it stays in the intestines, there is a greater risk of it having a laxative effect compared with Magnesium Citrate.

    Which kind you take is up to you however, you can also get ample amounts of magnesium by sprinkling a little Epsom’s salt in your water throughout the day. ES also provides sulfur, which is good for joints and will also help pass gall/liver stones gradually. It also helps your body create oxygen. (In fact, in order for the body to create oxygen, all it needs is a complex of minerals and a little acid.)

  • Barometric headaches can become worse if sinuses are blocked. Using a Neti Pot with saline water or a humidifier may help to prevent headaches by keeping the sinuses clear.

  • Keeping a headache journal may be useful if you’re not sure if your head pain and the weather are connected. It only makes sense to keep a log so you’ll know for sure over time. You might also restrict certain things from your diet that seem to make things worse like excessive caffeine, alcohol, or certain foods that seem to be contributors. As with migraine headaches, certain smells may also be a cause.

  • Caffeine is a vaso-constrictor, which means it helps reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels. It is found in many OTC headache medications. Based on current research, low doses of caffeine are best at relieving headache pain. Try sipping on a cup of Joe so you feel less pain over time.

  • Seasonal allergies can make barometric headaches even worse. Taking allergy medications with 'D' (for Decongestant) , may help you get over your symptoms faster.

  • Tooth pain can become worse when the barometric pressure drops because the roots of your teeth are located in close proximity to your sinus cavities. If you have some bad teeth or a tooth with a cavitation, get them capped, filled, or pulled to alleviate the discomfort.

  • Massaging your temples can also help relieve the discomfort you feel in your head. Use gentle pressure and circular motions around the temples to help open and relax sinuses.

  • Before I lived at the coast, I never got these kinds of headaches!. If the barometric pressure changes are greater where you live and you’re constantly getting these types of headaches, you may think about moving. Weather patterns have become more severe in the last couple of years and temperatures are consistently rising. If they continue at this rate, your headaches will only get worse as time goes by. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you live in higher elevations above sea level or well below them, barometric headaches can strike anyone at any time, as long as you are weather sensitive.

  • Stress and pain management can be a big help in overcoming misery in the head. Breathing techniques or meditation can assist you to relax more. The more you relax, the better your head will feel. If stress levels are higher, your barometric headaches will only get worse.

  • Ice kind of feels nice. Alternately, heat can sometimes open up sinuses and help relieve pain. Try draping an ice pack on top of your head or use a heating pad around your neck. Try them separately and use whichever method helps you get over the throbbing pulse faster.

  • Dehydration can make a headache last longer. Sip on water throughout the day and try to hydrate whenever you can, except right before bed.

    No matter how you slice and dice it, looks like barometric headaches are here in the long term. Mine seemed to improve over time so maybe yours will too! Use the methods that help you the most and try not to get discouraged by bad weather when it comes to your town.

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