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Difficulty breathing during barometric pressure drop

I've searched the internet several times and cannot find any information relating to my experience. While many people mention some type/intensity of pain before a storm/rain, I have several other symptoms that is completely life altering because it strikes at any time and there's no indication how severe it will be. I would greatly appreciate any insight.

At first it was just severe migraines before a storm. Those of you who know how pain-before-a-storm works will know that it's not with every single storm. It apparently depends how quickly the pressure drops - or something like that. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to just have a few of these symptoms but usually it's all. Mostly they last an hour or so and sometimes a whole day or several days.

Later the before-a-storm migraines changed to:
- Extreme difficulty breathing: My breath is so shallow I literally focus all my attention on just breathing because it feels like my body might stop doing that. I had asthma before and this is not asthma, my lungs are completely clear, not a hint of any wheezing. I always kept saying it's the muscles around my lungs that don't seem to work - I eventually learned they call that chest wall muscle fatigue. A very literal description is that it feels like I'm wearing a metal chest plate that prevents me from breathing in and out properly, it allows just enough to survive. Once the rain comes, it lifts and I can breathe again (I will mention the after effects later)

- Weakening of the spine: I can't sit up, I can't keep my head up for long. It's like my spine has lost strength/control. This clears completely once the pressure goes up, and I'm completely capable of controlling my body again.

- Heavy limbs: heaviness in my arms and legs, tremendous difficulty to lift my hands to eat or drink. A general feeling of weakness in the muscles, can't grip small things in my hands. It all clears once the pressure changes.

- Internal system slowdown: as strange as it might sound, I can feel my food go down slower. This has numerous times led to severe stomach pain because I cannot digest food. I've now learned to rather drink a shake or have very small bites over an outstretched period (even soft food takes long to get through). I don't take my tablets when I'm like this anymore because even though I keep drinking fluid if feels like they are still "stuck". (These are the kinds of things you don't mention out loud too much because you already get enough weird looks with this condition. I fully realize that it probably sounds ridiculous to some)

- Brain fog: while this is a common symptom this is in its extreme form where even simple sentences seem too hard to grasp. During this episode it's a matter of "don't even talk to me please".

- Limited talking: This is obviously due to the limited ability to breathe so it doesn't surprise me that I can't talk more than a few words.

- Nerve pain: particularly in the top third of the spine but also spread anywhere or all over the body. (One of the last storms caused my entire right side's nerves to be on edge. I couldn't even touch my own face on the right side for days, it's starting to get a bit better. But the nerves in my hip keep me limping. Not sure why it won't get better this time.)

- Need to lie face down: This one baffles me. I don't like to lie on my stomach, it's not natural for me. But one of the telltale symptoms when the pressure drops is I just "have to" lie flat on my stomach, no pillows, hands touching the ground. Of course I have control and do try and sit or lie down otherwise but it's the weirdest thing that my body keeps feeling like I have to lie down totally stretched out flat, face down. And you won't ever otherwise find me in this position to rest. I find this very strange.

- Deep sleep: I don't get this very much so this is almost an advantage. But it's usually just a nap, maybe an hour. But I'm knocked out, I close my eyes and I'm totally sleeping. Under normal circumstances I have extreme difficulty sleeping and just cannot seem to reach deep sleep.

So while all the above symptoms disappear like the flick of a switch once the pressure goes up, I can get up, talk, eat, like everything is normal, I do lose something every time this happens: muscle strength. My chest wall muscles particularly. And now after 2 weeks of a lot of storms, my legs and arms feel weaker too. I feel like I've been out of action for ages. I thought it might be "perceived weakness", that if I try I can still hold something or pick something up like before. It's not, my muscles are truly weaker after each bad storm effect.

This spring has been the worst. We don't know where to turn to because there is no answers for those who struggle with barometric pressure migraines or pain.

I don't know when it will strike because the pressure drops even though the sun is shining on a warm day and the storm is two days away. I've also had the effects even when the rain is on the surrounding mountains but we don't actually get rain in our part of the city. So it's quite unpredictable.

I know this was a mouthful. How do you even effectively search this online?

When I explained how everything in my body seems to be in slow motion I was recently told about the theory that ME causes hibernation-like symptoms. That would be about the closest description that I would agree with.

I'm thinking our bodies naturally have something that regulates the body to stay "stable" while the atmospheric pressure changes. That little something in my body has malfunctioned (well, it's broken I'd say) I've only had this particular addition to my ME symptoms for 2 years.

It came after a mysterious undiagnosed infection that was thought to be on the vestibular nerve in my brain. The doctor couldn't get a conclusive answer before the infection cleared. The infection cleared but turned me into a human barometer.

Thanks in advance


Forum Support Assistant
Need to lie face down: This one baffles me.

Some of your symptoms sound like low blood pressure and hypoperfusion (lack of blood) in your upper organs and brain. I get similar symptoms if I stay upright longer than 45 minutes - more brain fog, poor balance, nausea, sensation of heat and eventual sweating, difficulty breathing, weakened muscles, leg pain (especially my right leg) that I think comes from blood pooling in my legs. I don't get the nerve pains that you describe.

Maybe your body is so sensitive to pressure changes that the reduced air pressure on your body is a change that can't be compensated for properly by your body. Or maybe the pressure change is causing dilation of your blood vessels (or both).

Lying face down may push your ribs toward your lungs and increase your blood pressure which might help to relieve some of your symptoms.

If your symptoms are related to low blood pressure then checking your BP might help. You can also try placing heavy objects on your thighs when lying down (I feel a little better when my 9 year old niece sits on my thighs) or try compression socks.

Have you ever compared your blood pressure at normal barometric pressure to your blood pressure (standing, sitting, and lying) at low barometric pressure?
Thanks for the reply Pat. I didn't think to mention BP since I don't have problems with that anymore. I used to, a lot. But no, when air pressure drops my BP is normal, I've checked.

Though I understand what you're saying about weight on the legs anything like that has no effect. And pain is always different, the heaviness is the same. It's almost like I'm opposing gravity, just a heaviness that makes it hard to lift the limbs.

I will look into the hyperfusion you referred to. Thanks!

Ps. Just saw and old post on this site where someone mentioned in the comments about the vagus nerve. Since all this stemmed from that infection 2 years ago I will find out about this.


Forum Support Assistant
I will look into the hyperfusion you referred to.

It's hypoperfusion you would want to look into. Hyperperfusion would be too much blood in the organs. If your BP is normal though, then I doubt that your symptoms would be related to hypoperfusion, although some people with CFS/ME have hypoperfusion of the brain. According to one doctor there is a possibility that a person's core BP can be low even though an arm cuff reads normal, but I don't know how core BP is tested.

Hopefully others will recognize your symptoms and provide some useful information for you to follow.
Here is an update and conclusion of the symptoms I described in the original post - hopefully one day someone might relate to this.

Please know in advance that I'm still not in good shape and it is pretty hard to form thoughts, let alone sentences. My explanation is brief and sorely lacking much medical terms.

After this initial post I have had many more extreme "episodes". It's been a tough summer with lots of thunderstorms - pretty much every day. Of course there has been some good days too. We have tried to find another link with my symptoms but time and time again we cannot deny that it definitely seems to be related to barometric pressure drops. I've had more medical tests done to exclude any other possible causes.

I have finally found a health professional that explained that it's a central nervous system issue. Taken into account ALL my symptoms and how my body reacts to things around it, it is the only conclusion because I have several other central nervous system responses.

They explained it as the canary-in-the-coal-mine response. For some people it's an extreme mold reaction that triggers their symptoms. Mine just happens to be air pressure. I can't quite recall whether they used the words electro-magnetic fields. I don't much about this type of stuff and it seems far fetched to me but it makes complete sense to me that it is my CNS.

I still don't get why I can't find anything on Google. I'm trying things like "atmospheric pressure effects on central nervous system" or "central nervous system response to barometric pressure", etc. But still no luck.

Can anyone else find anything?

I'm hoping that the new treatment for inflammation of the brain, spinal cord and CNS might ease the symptoms.
I know this post is old, but I have the same EXACT symptoms down to the pain on the right side of the face. I didn’t have the hip pain. All of the started after a virus, I’m sure I had some inflammation going on to my CNS because my lungs were great. I just wanted to know how the inflammation drugs did for you!? How are you feeling now??