January 25, 2013

Lightning Causes Headaches

Bad news for those who live in Florida, often regarded as the lightning capital of the US: A father and son duo in Cincinnati, Ohio have conducted research that draws a line between lightning strikes and headaches. This means those who are already prone to suffer headaches are more likely to have one when the skies turn gray. The new study has also found that lightning is no respecter of men or women, and can even hasten a headache for those who normally do not experience such pains.

According to Father Martin and Son Martin, those who are already inclined to get a headache have a 31 percent greater chance of contracting one, while those poor, downtrodden chronic migraine sufferers have a 28 percent greater chance of contracting said migraine whenever lightning begins to strike.

To study this link, the researchers found some headache and migraine sufferers in Ohio and Missouri and worked them through the sieve of the International Headache Society-defined migraines to ensure they met a certain criteria. Next, the researchers asked these participants to journal about their headaches for the next 3 to 6 months.

Sending these participants out into an electric world, Poppa Martin and his boy set about collecting lightning strikes, recording anytime a strike occurred within 25 miles of a participant. The duo also collected information about the magnitude and polarity of the  bolts.

What they found was that those within a 25-mile radius of a strike were more likely to come down with a headache on the same day than those who were stationed farther away.

“We used mathematical models to determine if the lightning itself was the cause of the increased frequency of headaches or whether it could be attributed to other weather factors encountered with thunderstorms,” said Dr. Vincent Martin, the father of the two.

“Our results found a 19 percent increased risk for headaches on lightning days, even after accounting for these weather factors. This suggests that lightning has its own unique effect on headache.”

All told, this study sounds like little more than a cruel trick to play on headache and migraine sufferers. For those who are accustomed to being hammered with sometimes crippling pain, this explanation can’t offer much solace.

It’s an interesting study, of course. At its best, it highlights the unseen and unheard relationship we have with the Earth. It can sometimes be easy to forget that humans are just as much a part of our planet’s ecosystem as anything else. We’re just as vulnerable to climate and weather changes as the animals or other lifeforms.

But those with headaches could see this study as further proof that they have no control over their pain. Growing up, my mother suffered from chronic migraines, and it made her miserable. After batteries of tests and lots of trial and error, she figured out that chocolate was one of her triggers. She quit eating chocolate immediately, but she still has migraines on occasion and has yet to find a second trigger.

Meteorologists can sometimes determine when lightning will strike and even narrow it down to the vicinity of where it will strike.

Yet, the world moves as it does with little consideration for those of us dwelling here. You can avoid chocolate or caffeine or whatever else may trigger a headache, but you can’t avoid lightning.

The pair have further research should be conducted in order to more precisely define the link between these headaches and lightning.

“The exact mechanisms through which lightning and/or its associated meteorologic factors trigger headache are unknown, although we do have speculations,” says the son Geoffrey Martin.

So remember, next time you instinctively visit the grocery store when it begins to rain, pick up some Advil as well, you know, for the impending headache.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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