4 February 2000

Migraine, the answer is blowing in the wind

by Kate Melville

Migraine is something you may wish on your enemies and tax collectors but not most people. What causes them has long eluded scientists but a new study claims that Canada's warm westerly Chinook winds (in the province of Alberta) can trigger migraines in some people.

The new study by the University of Calgary has been published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

According to Dr. Werner Becker, "The study shows a definite correlation between Chinooks and migraine in some sufferers. Previous studies on various weather triggers for migraines show conflicting results. Chinooks are ideal for studying a link between a weather change and migraine because they have a definite time of onset and are a profound weather change."

Unfortunately the study by the University of Calgary Headache Research Clinic was quite limited and involved only an assessment of diaries kept by 75 migraine sufferers aged between 16 to 65 against the Chinook weather patterns.

After analysis, the 32 participants were found to be more likely to have migraines during Chinook weather conditions.

"The more triggers we can identify, the closer we get to preventing the onset of migraine. Patients could treat migraines before they start, similar to those patients who suffer from menstrual migraine," said Becker. "Identifying trigger factors for migraine, like the Chinooks, can help neurologists treat, manage and learn more about the causes of migraine. How Chinooks trigger a migraine is still unknown."

While this may sound like weird science in an attached editorial in Neurology, Dr. Richard Lipton wrote, "A better understanding of migraine triggers is crucial to identifying preventative strategies and enhancing people's feelings of control".

So if you suffer from migraines, mapping your episodes against your local climatic conditions may produce a clue as to an environmental trigger.