The Rain Makes Pain, It’s Not Just in the Brain

Nobody is ever as happy to see rain as I am. Rain generally means that relief is in reach, that the pain and anguish I’ve been feeling for hours, sometimes days, is about to come to an end. Rolled up in a ball, too stiff, or bloated, or sad to move, the rain is a beacon of hope.

Millions of people suffer from weather-related pain. It’s usually existing chronic pain, or old injuries that flare up when the weather gets bad, although sometimes I get scrunched up in areas where I’ve never had injuries. So tight that stretching does nothing, heating pads are mostly useless, all I can do is sit and wait and ride it out.

The brain is not immune. Low-pressure systems can cause mood swings so bad that I’m near suicidal, or at least sad enough to question my existence. Hand-eye co-ordination craps out and I drop things or bump things constantly. Sometimes I can’t make my hands tie my shoelaces or button a coat.

There’s a formula to it all. 48 hours prior to a storm, I get a migraine. At 24 hours, there’s a sinus headache. At around 12 hours before, I start to feel morbidly depressed, tendons ache, my back feels like something is trying to bunch the muscles up along the spine, as if they were curtains, only curtains made of concrete. There’s often a feeling as if something is trying to crush me up into a ball, as if I were a sheet of paper.

I should know this all by now. Remember it and be aware. Or at least be forewarned enough to stick post-its all over the house the night before a storm to remind myself that I’m not, in fact, bi-polar, but am just have an air-pressure day.

Greg always remembers. He always knows. He can walk into the room and, just by looking at my face, determine whether I’m suffering from a migraine, air-pressure pain, or both. I’ll remark on how I’m feeling incredibly sad, or be in the midst of a tearful rant about something completely inconsequential, and he’ll stop me with a gentle, “Dude… air pressure. It’s gonna rain in a few hours.”

This can actually help more than anything else I might try. A reminder of my humanity, but more importantly, an acknowledgement of my pain.

For years, people who suffered from weather-related pain were ignored. Doctors don’t acknowledge things that cannot be scientifically proven, and how the hell do you prove that your elbow hurts when it rains, or your knee aches a few hours before it will snow? So there’s a massive amount of vindication in a new study released recently in the UK in which scientists developed an app to track the correlation of chronic pain and weather. And, no surprise, it has proven what every person who has ever complained about the air pressure or humidity or wind has ever known… it’s real. We’re not lying, we’re not imagining things. We are all really in a great deal of pain due to the weather, thank you very much.

So as unstable as I feel on low air pressure days, as often as I sit here feeling like a waste of space, wondering why I bother (and no, I’m not actually suicidal, but suicides have been attributed to low air pressure), remembering that it’s not actually me, but the weather, can be what flips the switch to feeling better. And knowing that there’s now proof, and hopefully someone working on some type of treatment, is also a huge relief.

In the meantime, I need a better system to remind myself. So I’m not trying to cook a multi-dish dinner when I can barely stand up, or trying to do some art or craft project that requires fine motor skills, or attempting to work on some writing project when all I want to do is sit and cry. It will require better scheduling, for sure. Reminders, so I don’t get too stressed by the pain or the brain fog; alternative activities or systems so I can implement self-care instead of trying to soldier through tasks that hurt.

Honestly, simply knowing that it’s NOT all in my head, as I (and other sufferers) have been told by doctors for years, is enough to make it bearable. But nothing is ever as sweet, as calming, as the release that comes as the final drops of a storm begin to dry on the pavement, the humidity lifts, and the pain fades away.