Lately, I’ve noticed more people in my life (myself included) complaining of headaches, sinus pressure, and migraines. Family and friends in different states as well as those who live nearby all have one thing in common: Their headaches are getting worse and happening more frequently. So, what’s causing these symptoms?
Migraines and headaches have many causes: Lifestyle factors, food triggers, and stress can all contribute. And it’s no secret we’ve collectively experienced a fair amount of stress in the past few years.
But the recent headache spike might actually be thanks to the changing seasons and fluctuations in barometric pressure—or at least it’s yet another headache-causing layer on top of everything else.
What Is Barometric Pressure?
Barometric pressure is the measurement of air pressure in the atmosphere. It’s the weight of air molecules above any given point on the Earth. It’s measured by a barometer, and it changes constantly. The measurement will be different depending on where the reading takes place.
When the barometric pressure is high, the result is typically better weather. And as the barometer falls, the weather can become more volatile—the lower the pressure, the more intense the storm.
Geographic locations with higher altitudes tend to have overall lower barometric pressure. You’ve likely heard climbers refer to the “thinner air” of mountainous regions.
People sometimes comment on how it’s more difficult to breathe, they feel dizzier, and/or they may feel more fatigued at higher altitudes. Conversely, it can be easier to breathe by the ocean (or at sea level) because the barometric pressure is higher.
Fluctuations in barometric pressure are more common in some parts of the U.S. than in others. Cities in places like Hawaii, California, and Connecticut have fewer fluctuations in barometric pressure.
The barometric pressure also changes as the seasons change. Spring and fall typically have more variation in barometric pressure, while fall brings cooling weather patterns and a drop in barometric pressure.
Typically, when the barometric pressure is steady, there won’t be much change in the weather. When the barometer drops suddenly, a storm could be headed your way.
Barometric Pressure’s Effect On The Body
Some people feel like they can predict the weather because their bodies react to changes in barometric pressure. If the phrase, “My knees can predict the weather,” is becoming a part of your vernacular, you likely already know some of the ways barometric pressure can affect the body.
When the barometric pressure drops, the shift in pressure between the air in our sinuses and the atmosphere can trigger pain, including various types of headaches.
Sudden drops in barometric pressure can cause sinus headaches, migraines, joint and muscle pain, blood pressure changes, fatigue, asthma, allergies, and even blood sugar fluctuations. Your knees (or other joints, muscles, and scars) hurt when the barometric pressure drops because it causes the tissue to swell and can irritate the nerves surrounding the tissue.
Symptoms of a sinus headache include pain and pressure in the cheek, brow, and/or forehead. Pressure or pain can also be exacerbated when you bend down or lie down. It can also include a stuffy nose and fatigue. Migraine symptoms can include throbbing, sensitivity to light, nausea, and nasal congestion, among others.
How To Combat Barometric Pressure Headaches
It’s always important to stay hydrated, and that’s especially true when battling a headache or migraine.
Natural home remedies for sinus pressure and headaches include using a humidifier, using a saline spray, and elevating your head when you sleep. Getting enough sleep (if you can) is important too. Over-the-counter pain medication and decongestants may work well enough for sinus and pressure headaches.
But you may need to see a doctor if headaches become frequent and intense, or if you feel like you are having migraines. You may require prescription medications and the doctor may want to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
It’s also important to exercise a few days a week, eat a balanced diet, and avoid skipping meals. Relaxation techniques, yoga, and meditation can also help prevent some symptoms of headaches and migraines.