Before moving to Ontario, I worked full time at Poke Community Acupuncture in Vancouver BC for 2+ years. The first spring I spent working in community acupuncture in Guelph ON I was surprised to notice that some days, some of my patients were slightly more needle sensitive than normal. I wondered if I was losing my touch. Then I realized that if a cluster of patients were a tiny bit more tender, it always happened on days when a storm was coming. Apparently, the shift in barometric pressure (the weight of the air surrounding us) not only sets off headaches and migraines, it can also make some people more sensitive to acupuncture needles. I never noticed this before moving to southern Ontario, because on the west coast they hardly get any thunderstorms (something to do with the cool air over the ocean) so I didn’t get the opportunity to observe what happens in the treatment room when a storm is coming.
It was a relief to figure that out — it’s not me. It’s the weather!
I hesitated to share this because I don’t want to make anyone who’s already nervous about needles, more nervous. But I couldn’t resist because it’s such an interesting point about how weather systems affect our bodies.
I think we underestimate weather’s impact on our physiology. City dwellers in this part of the world tend to spend a lot of time indoors, especially in a pandemic, so it’s understandable, but weather changes are no joke. We have all these pockets of air in our heads (our sinuses) and our bodies are full of fluid and all this is affected by temperature swings, changes in the wind, humidity, and lightning (a 2013 study in the journal Cephalalgia found that lightning is a unique trigger for migraine).
At the beginning of spring we tend to see increased headaches, irritability and insomnia in the clinic — this year we’re also seeing an unusual uptick in tinnitus complaints. So take this as a seasonal reminder that if you’re feeling off, it might just be the weather, and acupuncture can help.