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A sunset that causes headaches?

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

I recently spent 90 minutes chatting with Peter and Laval of Adventure Audio Podcast about a wide variety of topics of interest to sporty folks — mostly injury and rehab stuff, of course.

Good conversation, do have a listen. (I’m a tad chagrined that the first topic was maybe a bit nerdy and dry, but the listening was much easier after that.)

Now what’s all this about sunsets and headaches?

One of the less conventional topics on the show was chinook headaches — the headaches people get from chinook winds, which are the warm, dry winter winds on the east side of the Rockies (AKA “Foehn Winds” and others around the world). Peter and Laval are from Calgary, optimally placed to experience that weather phenomenon.

Photo of the “chinook arch” phenomenon: a striking sunset sky with a band of fiery orange clouds well above the horizon. Clear dark blue sky is seen between the clouds and the horizon. On the black horizon is the silhouette of a barren tree.

A sunset that causes headaches?

This is a “chinook arch” in Calgary, Alberta, from 2005… which is associated with the “chinook wind”… which causes headaches! Probably! Somehow!

A bit of quick PubMed’ing before the show confirmed that the chinook winds do indeed seem to boost migraines. I expected that weirdness to be a mystery, but was happily surprised to discover a decent hypothesis: the shape of the nose/throat plumbing is quite likely to explain chinook headaches! 🤯

While that doesn’t fully explain anything, it’s a lot better than just “it’s weird, isn’t it?”

I have added this to my collection of examples of interesting and clinically significant anatomical variations, and of course also my headache book.

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