Headache and Sferics


Address all correspondence to Prof. Dr. Dieter Vaitl, Department of Clinical and Physiological Psychology, Justus-Liebig, University of Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Str. 10, D-35394 Giessen, Germany.


Many patients with migraine believe weather is a trigger for their headaches. The objective of this study was to determine if very low frequency sferics, pulse-shaped electromagnetic fields originating from atmospheric discharges (lightning), are precipitating factors. The occurrence of sferics impulses is characterized by a daily, as well as an annual, periodicity and is thought to be associated with various pathological processes. The diaries of 37 women suffering from migraine and tension-type headaches were analyzed over a period of 6 months and correlated with daily sferics activity and other weather phenomena in the area of Giessen, Germany. From October through December (autumn), sferics activity was correlated with the occurrence of migraine (r = 0.33, P<.01); however, there was no correlation in July and August (summer), when the thunderstorm activity had been very intense. In summer, tension-type headaches were associated with other weather parameters such as temperature (r  = 0.36, P<.01) and vapor pressure (r = 0.27, P<.05).