Some dispute the effects of weather on the body. For those of us who feel it in our joints and bones, we don’t need any scientific basis for the phenomena. We are our own meteorologist. Many of us can predict the weather by the effect of barometric pressure on our bodies.

Last month we had heavy cloud coverage, rain, and a high mold count in the Chicago area for several weeks that knocked me off my feet. The mold and humidity triggered my asthma and fibromyalgia resulting in labored breathing and pain that made it difficult for me to get off the couch.

More than 5 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue and sleep, memory, and mood issues. Tension headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression are common. There also is an increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain. The brain’s pain receptors develop a memory of the pain making them more sensitive causing them to overact.

Stress and weather, especially low air pressure, are my greatest causes of symptoms. The heavy weight of the air results in great pain.

Air pressure is also called barometric pressure because it is measured by barometers. Barometers measure the current air pressure at a particular location in inches of mercury or in millibars.

High pressure systems moving in often predict cooler temperatures and clear skies. Low pressure systems bring warmer weather, storms, and rain.

Atmospheric pressure is the weight of tiny particles of air molecules exerted upon us. The pressure and its density is related to the weather—the air’s temperature and height above the Earth’s surface.

The Earth’s atmosphere is pressing against each square inch of our bodies with a force of about 14.7 pounds per square inch. The force on a space of a little larger than a square foot is about 1 ton and it is up to our bodies to balance the pressure within us with that outside.

Since the pressure depends upon the amount of air above us, the pressure decreases as we go higher. As elevation increases there is less atmospheric mass resulting in the barometric pressure dropping about 1 inch of mercury for each increase of 1,000 feet. Our ears pop as we move up to balance the pressure between the outside and inside of our ears and we breathe faster to bring more air molecules into our lungs to make up for less air.

I feel considerably less pain on clear days and at higher elevations, so perhaps the solution for me is to keep my sights on the heavens and stay high above the clouds.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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