Calgary

How to minimize chinook headaches

It won’t come as news to many migraine sufferers, but a Calgary doctor says it’s entirely possible that chinooks contribute to the development or intensity of the painful headaches in about half the people who suffer from them.

'Most migraine attacks are triggered by more than one thing. Their triggers add up'

Calgary doc says every migraine is a little different 1:04

A Calgary doctor and migraine expert says while some evidence suggests chinooks contribute to migraines, the best way to manage the painful headaches involves reducing other triggers.

"Most migraine attacks are triggered by more than one thing. Their triggers add up: whether it's stress, an overbooked schedule, a chinook, a glass of wine," Dr. Werner Becker told CBC News.

Dr. Werner Becker says that, for some sufferers, migraines can be triggered by a combination of factors including stress, alcohol and weather patterns. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Becker, a professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, said pain relievers like triptans should not be taken too often because they could increase the frequency of migraines.

He says avoiding meals is a bad idea. Instead, he recommends people try to stay hydrated, get lots of sleep and avoid or reduce caffeine intake.

Try not to overload your schedule, because too many commitments can increase stress, which can also be a trigger, he explained.

Daily preventative medications could help people who experience four migraines a month or less, Becker said.

Here's a look at a chinook arch at sunset on eastbound Glenmore Trail going over the Bow River on Monday. (Submitted by Samana McEwen)

But some Calgarians say it's about trial and error to find what works best for them.

"Extra strength Advil works for me, as long as I catch it in time," Heather Laird said. "Otherwise I just lay in a bedroom with the lights out."

Half of patients chinook-sensitive

Becker says many patients report migraines during a chinook and the day before, but there is no one answer for everyone as far as getting relief.

"We found that about half the patients were chinook-sensitive by our definitions," he explained.

Science has finally proven what many headache sufferers in Calgary have always known. Chinook winds can cause migraines. 1:42

The video above is a look back to the year 2000 when science made the official link between migraines and chinooks.

He believes barometric pressure changes could be responsible for the pain some people feel the day before.

"That has not been proven, but we assume that is the mechanism," Becker cautioned.

"No one really knows exactly how weather changes do trigger headaches — whether it is high temperatures, wind, pressure changes. People have looked at even thunderstorms and changes related to lightning, but it is all still a bit of a mystery."

With files from Evelyne Asselin