I remember a time when I loved storms; the bigger the better. They were magic to me. I grew up in a small fishing town on Lake Erie, in northern Ohio. It seemed like the only things on TV in my house were the news and the weather. When a storm was coming, my mom would quietly make sure that we had all we needed in case of a power outage, while I diligently prepared myself to go outside, rather than to the basement (where my Mom liked me to be). I used to beg my step-dad to take me out to the beach so I could watch the storm roll over the murky green water, and the waves that swelled and crashed on the shore. I liked it best of all when there was a water spout (or two). I loved to stand by and look on as they grew and became more and more wild. I reassured my Mom by reminding her that they almost never come out off of the water, as I ran out the door giggling, headed into the rain. I loved the feeling of the wet wind on my face, and the distinctive smell of a summer storm, so refreshing.
Today, I don’t need the weather channel to tell me if a storm is coming. My joints and my head are privy to that information long before I hear or read about it. It is widely believed that this is because changes in barometric pressure can cause flares in pain and inflammatory conditions. Additionally, there is some evidence that lightening may lead to an increase in migraine symptoms when controlling for the effect of barometric pressure changes. These days, although I still find storms to be beautiful, I don’t get so excited. By the time the storm reaches me, I am usually already in excruciating pain. Every joint pops and aches, and the feeling of pressure in my head in unbelievable.
This week for example, began with 100* heat that made me nauseous and dizzy as a result of my recently diagnosed Dysautonomia. Summer heat often comes with storms, and this week was no exception. There have been at least two stormy days, and I have spent them hidden in the basement (Mom would be proud, but really it’s just dark down there). I do have a few coping mechanisms during these times though, and because I know I’m not alone in facing increased pain as the weather changes I thought I would share them:
(1) Get Somewhere Where You Can Ride it Out
As difficult as it is to handle the pain a storm brings, it’s much much worse if you are trying to travel through it. If you are driving, try to get off of the road. There have been many times that I have pulled my car over at a rest stop and just laid down in the drivers’ seat until it passed. If home is close by, and you are able to go, do it!
(2) Be Kind to Yourself!
If you know storms are a trigger for you, it’s even more important than usual to make self-care a priority. Make time to rest a little extra, whatever that means for you (from an extra long nap to giving yourself a little break from your work)
(3) Be Prepared
Weather is unpredictable, and often times so is pain. That’s the reason I carry all of my “as needed” or “rescue” medications with me everywhere I go in a (giant) bag inside of my (even bigger) purse. Other things to have on hand include pain relieving creams (I use a prescription lidocaine cream, but there are plenty of over-the-counter options to try), heat/cool patches, water, and snacks that fit your dietary needs (for taking medication with).
(4) Pressure and Ice/Heat
The sort of pressure induced pain (especially head pain) brought on by storms always seems to respond to pressure back against it for me. I generally prefer ice to heat. My favorite remedy for migraines brought on by storms is a headache/migraine hat (used in conjunction with medication of course). It provides both the pleasant coolness of ice and a gentle pressure (I have no affiliation with the makers of this product, I just like it).
Whether its binge watching your favorite show, using an adult coloring book (or a kids one!), following a guided meditation, or applying a little of your favorite essential oil, distraction can be a powerful tool. I may not be able to will my brain into stopping the pain, but I have learned that its possible to trick it into focusing attention elsewhere for a little while. The pain is still there, but I notice it less.
Do storms increase your pain too? I’d love to hear about it. Comment sharing what type of pain you have that storms impact, and/or what you do to make it through!