Here’s the science behind why some get aches and pains when KC’s weather changes

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For months at a time in the Plains, we're vulnerable to significant air pressure changes. This typically happens every winter, spring and fall, especially as the weather changes rapidly.

For some people, though, these weather changes are more than rain or snow or wind. For some, they actually bring pain.

"I feel tremendous pressure on the back of my head. It starts off as just pressure, like someone was grabbing my skull ,and it goes to the point where I feel that I`m nauseous," Suzy Kenski said. "I feel like if I'm going to move, I'll toss my cookies."

Aches and pains associated with weather changes, whether it be from migraines, arthritis, back pain or other ailments, have long been connected, going back to Roman times.

But trying to find an actual scientific connection has been elusive.

In fact, a study from Australia, published last year in Pain Magazine, says no connection is apparent -- at least when it comes to lower back pain. It surveyed more than 900 people and essentially concluded that it was all mental and not physical.

That's science, but many know differently because when the weather is changing fast, the phones start ringing at metro doctor's offices. Especially at St. Luke's Health System neurologist Steven Arkin's office.

"I actually do watch the weather, and I figure what kind of day it's going to be because there are a lot of people that call us during that time frame," Arkin said.

It's gotten to the point where, for years, folks can actually tell the weather is changing because of how they feel. It's why grandma would say rain is coming without looking at the forecast -- because her arthritis was acting up or h er head hurt -- and often she was right.

"I think there are a number of people that have what we call barometric headaches," Arkin said. "And what happens is that when a front comes in, then the air pressure drops, and it`s the amount of drop and also how quickly it drops as to how these pain fibers are stretched out."

Scientifically, this sort of makes sense, too. Think of your body tissue as a balloon. As the pressure drops, the balloon will start to expand ever so slightly. That expansion increases the pressure on nerve endings, and that causes pain.

"I get a migraine and I also -- the dizziness," Kenski said. "I'll stand up and I'm dizzy. I need to check the weather."

So can anything be done to help a person's pain?

"In general, what I tell people is if they know a weather system is coming, that means that they have to hydrate very well, that their sleep pattern is excellent and in some instances I have them take anti-inflammatory medicine," Arkin said.

Want to make sure you know when big pressure changes are coming? Follow FOX4 meteorologist Joe Lauria on Facebook, so you don't miss his aches and pains alerts.



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