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A Forecast for Pain?

Barometric pressure changes felt by those with asthma, arthritis and headaches

SUNDAY, April 20, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Decreases in barometric pressure typically signal an approaching storm, but for many such changes can also be a forecast for physical pain.

From headaches to bone pain, various discomforts have long been associated with the types of weather changes that can be particularly drastic during spring and fall. Yet, just as many people fail to fully comprehend how barometric pressure works, doctors are still largely in the dark as to how it causes some to suffer pain.

One of the most common types of problems linked to barometric pressure is arthritic pain. While there's no solid evidence showing precisely how arthritic pain is aggravated by weather changes, people have complained for centuries that their pain worsens with barometric pressure changes, as well as with increases in humidity.

Experts have theorized that external pressure changes could somehow impact the pressure against joints inside the body, but the relationship remains a mystery.

Migraine headaches are another malady associated with pressure changes. According to the National Headache Foundation, barometric changes can cause the blood vessels in the head to swell to compensate for changes in oxygen levels, hence leading to the headache.

And even some asthma sufferers report that barometric pressure changes can trigger asthma symptoms. According to the National Lung Association, reports of such reactions are common. Doctors speculate the rapid temperature fluctuations that can accompany barometric pressure changes may bring on the asthma symptoms.

People with migraines and arthritis problems typically report that pain related to barometric pressure, though noticeable, is mild enough to respond to over-the-counter pain relievers. If pain of any type persists beyond normal levels of discomfort, consult your doctor.

More information

You can learn more about precisely how barometric pressure works from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

SOURCES: National Lung Association; National Headache Foundation
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