Headache and Barometric Pressure: a Narrative Review
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Purpose of Review
Alterations in atmospheric pressure have been long associated with headaches. The purpose of this review article is to investigate the association of barometric pressure with headache, classifying into two broad categories primary headache disorders (barometric pressure triggering migraine or tension-type headache) and secondary headache disorders (barometric pressure triggering high-altitude headache and headache attributed to airplane travel), discussing the pathophysiology and possible treatments.
Multiple studies have been performed with inconsistent results regarding the directionality of the association between atmospheric pressure changes and triggering of primary headache disorders, chiefly headaches. Atmospheric pressure is also a trigger of two secondary headache disorders, i.e., high-altitude headache and headache attributed to airplane travel. Hypothesized mechanisms include excitation of neurons in trigeminal nucleus, central and peripheral vasoconstriction, barotrauma, and hypoxia. There are no randomized clinical trials regarding effective acute or preventive treatments.
Greater understanding of pathophysiology may enable both acute and preventive treatments for headaches triggered by changes in barometric pressure. Further studies on the subject are needed.
KeywordsHeadache Migraine Barometric pressure Atmospheric pressure High-altitude headaches Airplane headache
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this manuscript.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
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