Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Blame the Weather

By Christine Thackeray

When I was young, my grandmother often stayed with us. Some mornings she would get up stiffly and say she knew it was going to rain because her knees were talking to her. I wasn't quite sure what she meant until years later when genetics had finally done its work. Now I know what she is talking about. When there is a significant pressure change, my knees swell up like basketballs. After talking to a variety of specialists the best thing I can do, if I like my liver and kidneys, is just put up with it until the next day when they are pretty much back to normal.

This internal barometer has taught me something. For people who are neurologically sensitive either due to genetics or injury, their brains act like my knees. On days where my knees swell, I'll often call friends who struggle with depression or mania and find they are whacked out, feeling either exhausted or extremely moody that day.

Interestingly, it even has a name "Barometric Depression Syndrome." Not much research has been done on this problem but I can tell you first hand that it exists because I've seen it. The last week in Portland it has gone from sunshine to hail to snow and back to 60 degree weather in a single afternoon. It's so bad I can barely walk up the stairs. I've got one friend who is struggling with migraines, another who came over yesterday in tears and a third who can't get out of bed. I keep telling them not to personalize it- it isn't their fault. Blame it on all these freak storms.

In 1979 a group of "brain-dead" scientists did a study of 72 people with severe headaches in the Boston area to see if their headaches were affected by the weather. Based on this single, poorly conceived study there are a group of medical professionals who will tell you that you are crazy if you see this correlation. The huge holes in this study are that Boston is not an area really well known for severe pressure changes- try Texas or Kansas right before a twister and see how you feel. Secondly, if your population is chosen from people who already have severe headaches on a regular basis, they have a different trigger. Finally, there is far more evidence to support the truth. One medical site states that the most common type of headache is due to pressure changes in the weather. If you do a google search you'll find dozens of people who discuss this very topic. Fibromyalgia is also proven to be triggered by barometric shifts. There is even some evidence that SAD (seasonal affected disorder) may be linked to barometric pressure changes. So the next time you wake up feeling off, remember it may not be you at all. It is probably just the weather.


Karlene said...

That is so interesting! I had a teacher in high school tell me that he'd never seen anyone whose mood was so affected by the weather as mine was. After that, I did notice it seemed to be true, but I just thought I was weird or something. This is good to know.

Anna Maria Junus said...

This is interesting.

But seeing that in a way all life is interconnected, it makes sense.