The Use of PEMF in the
Treatment of Weather Sensitivity

Wolfgang Ludwig, DSc  is a name that is familiar to the world due to his research on pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy. Today, his work is carried on by Advanced Medical Systems, and I consider their equipment to be the best of its type in the world. These units are in almost constant use in my practice on a daily basis, and this article will go over one of the common applications.

It seems that there has been an increase in those patients with sensitivity to weather changes. Whether this is due to an actual increase or to the nature of my practice is unknown to me. The standard medical community has the position that the link between symptoms and weather changes is hypothetical and that the research has come to mixed conclusions.

However, several studies have shown that atmospheric conditions can affect well-being or disease, and that some individuals seem to be more sensitive to weather than others. Since epidemiological data on the prevalence of weather-related health effects are sparse, this study looked at two representative weather sensitivity (WS) surveys that were conducted independently in Germany and Canada.

In Germany 1,064 citizens (age >16 years) were interviewed in January 2001, and in Canada 1,506 persons (age >18 years) were interviewed in January 1994. The results showed that 19.2% of the German population thought that weather affected their health “to a strong degree,” 35.3% that weather had “some influence on their health” (sum of both = 54.5% weather sensitive), whereas the remaining 45.5% did not consider that weather had an effect on their health status.

In Canada 61% of the respondents considered themselves to be sensitive to the weather. The highest prevalence of WS (high + some influence) in Germans was found in the age group older than 60 years (68%), which was almost identical in the Canadian population (69%). The highest frequencies of weather-related symptoms were reported in Germany for stormy weather (30%) and when it became colder (29%). In Canada mainly cold weather (46%), dampness (21%) and rain (20%) were considered to affect health more than other weather types.

The most frequent symptoms reported in Germany were headache/migraine (61%), lethargy (47%), sleep disturbances (46%), fatigue (42%), joint pain (40%), irritation (31%), depression (27%), vertigo (26%), concentration problems (26%) and scar pain (23%). Canadian weather-sensitive persons reported colds (29%), psychological effects (28%) and painful joints, muscles or arthritis (10%). In Germany 32% of the weather-sensitive subjects reported themselves to be unable to do their regular work because of weather-related symptoms at least once in the previous year, and 22% of them several times. Co-morbidity was significantly higher in weather-sensitive subjects both in Germany and Canada. (1)

If these statistics are correct, then it certainly appears that weather sensitivity is a pretty common problem.  The critics point out that this is just a survey and doesn’t prove that these people are actually sensitive to weather changes. The following studies will answer that issue.

The first study examined the impact of weather on rheumatoid arthritis patients. The results showed that for all patients the pain levels were highest on cold, overcast days and following days with high barometric pressure. Pain levels also increased as a function of change in relative humidity from one day to the next. Results also revealed that there was significant variability between patients in their weather sensitivity patterns. In general, patients with higher levels of self-reported pain demonstrated more weather sensitivity. (2)

Still another study looked at patients with chronic pain of all types. Chronic pain patients frequently report that weather conditions affect their pain, but there have been no standardized measures of weather sensitivity. The authors developed the Weather and Pain Questionnaire (WPQ) which assesses patient sensitivity to weather variations. Seventy chronic pain patients (59% females) with an average age of 43 years completed the WPQ. The instrument was revised using factor analysis to produce a Weather Sensitivity Index (WSI) (48% of variance) with high internal consistency (0.93) and test-retest reliability (r = 0.89).

The results indicated that patients could reliably identify which meteorological variables influenced their pain but could not reliably determine which physical symptoms were consistently affected. The most frequently reported factors which affect pain complaint were temperature (87%) and humidity (77%). The most frequently reported physical complaints associated with the weather were joint and muscle aches (82% and 79%, respectively).

Patients labeled as being ‘weather sensitive’, defined by greater than median scores on the WPQ, reported significantly greater pain intensity, greater chronicity of pain problems, and more difficulties sleeping than patients with low scores on the WPQ. No differences in gender, education level, disability status, or global psychological distress were found. (3)

This next study looked at the effect of weather on migraines. The scientific evidence for weather being a trigger factor for migraine attacks is considered to be inconclusive. Therefore, headache diaries of 20 patients with migraines were analyzed and correlated in 4 hour intervals to atmospheric air pressure, temperature, and relative air humidity in Berlin (Germany) for a period of 12 consecutive months. Migraine attacks started most frequently at 4 a.m. and reached the highest intensity between 4 and 8 a.m. A highly significant association between meteorological variables and the occurrence of migraine attacks was found in six patients. The onset of an attack as well as high headache intensity was associated with lower temperature and higher humidity. This data revealed that a subgroup of their patients were highly sensitive to changes in the weather. (4)

Another study also looked at the association of migraine with weather. The sample consisted of 77 migraine patients seen in a headache clinic who provided headache calendars for a period ranging from 2 to 24 months. Each patient was given a questionnaire assessing their beliefs about how strongly (if any) weather affected their headaches. Second, weather data were collected from the National Weather Service, from three reporting stations central to the residences of the study participants. Analysis was performed on 43 variables to generate three meteorological factors. Factor 1 represents a function of absolute temperature and humidity. Factor 2 represents a changing weather pattern. Factor 3 represents barometric pressure.

Of the 77 subjects in the study, 39 (50.6%), were found to be sensitive to weather, but 48 (62.3%) thought they were sensitive to weather conditions (P < 0.05). Thirty (38.9%) were sensitive to one weather factor and 9 (11.7%) to two factors. Twenty-six (33.7%) were sensitive to factor 1; 11 (14.3%) to factor 2; 10 (12.9%) to factor 3.

This study clearly shows the influence of weather on headache, and that many patients are susceptible to multiple weather factors. (5)

The following study is one of few that also looked at the effect of winds. Changing weather fronts produce severe changes of daily rhythms. Electrical impulses arrive 1-2 days before the weather and create either atmospherics or “positive ions”. They appear to be responsible for the epidemic appearance of migraine and of thromboembolism.

The impact of atmospheric electricity was assessed in 1000 patients by daily urinalysis of serotonin, 5-HIAA, adrenaline, noradrenaline, histamine, thyroxine, 17-KS, 17-OH, Na, K, creatinine and diuresis. The changes found in these 12 parameters allowed a classification of heat reactions into three clinical entities:

  1. serotonin hyperproduction causing a typical irritation syndrome:
  2. adrenal deficiency producing a typical exhaustion syndrome;
  3. hyperthyroidism “Forme fruste” with subclinical “apathetic” thyroid symptoms.

These symptoms, typical for Föhn, Tramontana, Sirocco, Sharkiye, Chamssin, Sharav and Santa Ana Winds, are mainly due to positive ionization of the air. They can be prevented by negative ionizing apparatuses or specific drug treatment. (6)

Several studies have examined the effect of weather on mood.  In this research, it was found that the risk of committing suicide was significantly higher on days with high temperatures, low relative humidity or a thunderstorm and on days following a thunderstorm. The multiple logistic regression analysis left “temperature” and “thunderstorm on the preceding day” as significant factors, even after adjustment for sociodemographic and geographical variables. (7)

The conclusions of several studies show little agreement concerning the relationship between weather and the incidence of stroke. This study analyzed the relationship between daily meteorological conditions and daily as well as seasonal stroke incidence.

The researchers looked at 1,286 consecutive strokes assessed during 3 years (2001-2003) from the reference area of Hospital del Mar that were classified as intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) (n = 243) or ischemic stroke (IS) (n = 1,043). IS was divided in non-lacunar stroke (NLS) (n = 732) and lacunar stroke (LS) (n = 311).

Daily meteorological data were obtained concerning atmospheric pressure (AP), relative humidity, maximum, minimum, and mean temperatures, and the variation of all these measures compared with the previous day.

Total stroke (TS) incidence showed little association with AP, but was higher with the AP variations. NLS were related to AP falls while ICHs were associated with AP rises. NLS and temperature showed an inverse correlation; however, it lost its significance after adjusting for AP variations. The daily incidences of NLS and ICH were higher in autumn and in winter, but depended strongly on the daily variations of AP.

Based on these results, the incidences of NLS and ICH are related to AP changes compared with the previous day. AP changes largely explain the seasonal and daily variations in the incidence of stroke. Since this was not a variable tested in many studies, it could explain the difference in results. (8)

This next study also looked at weather and stroke. A large clinical stroke registry with the UK Met Office database was used to assess the association between meteorological variables and specific clinical subtypes of acute stroke.

Data from 6389 patients with acute stroke were examined. The mean age (SD) was 71.2 (13.0) years. About 5723 (90%) patients suffered ischemic stroke of which 1943 (34%) were lacunar. Six hundred and sixty-six patients (10%) had hemorrhagic stroke.

Every 1 degrees C increase in mean temperature during the preceding 24 h was associated with a 2.1% increase in ischemic stroke admissions (P = 0.004). A fall in atmospheric pressure over the preceding 48 h was associated with increased rate of hemorrhagic stroke admissions (P = 0.045). Higher maximum daily temperature gave a greater increase in lacunar stroke admissions than in other ischemic strokes (P = 0.035).

As in the previous study cited, this research also demonstrated a measurable effect of atmospheric conditions upon stroke incidence. (9)

The question in this following study was: Can good or bad mood induced by the weather influence people’s ability to correctly remember everyday scenes? In this field study, it was found that weather-induced negative mood improved memory accuracy. Randomly selected shoppers on bright, sunny days (good mood) or on cloudy, rainy days (bad mood) saw 10 unusual objects in the check-out area of a suburban shop, and their recall and recognition memory for these objects was later tested. Shoppers in a negative mood showed better memory and higher discrimination ability. (10)

The next article studied 4797 cases of patients who were cured of their psychological symptoms and their notes filed by the psychiatric clinic of the Eginition Hospital in Athens, during the year 1994. The results of this analysis imply significant contribution of environmental variations, expressed by a discomfort index, in the aggravation of psychological symptoms like depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, aggressiveness, etc. Moreover, geomagnetic field variations expressed by the international geomagnetic index (DST) manifest significant indications that they contribute to the aggravation of sleep disturbances. A clear seasonal variation, with a maximum around August and a minimum at the end of the year, appears in the environmental index, while a double oscillation with a period of about six months is obvious in the geomagnetic index. The same more or less seasonal variation was mirrored in most of the psychological symptoms that were analyzed in this study. (11)

As the above literature demonstrates, there is a clear relationship of weather to multiple areas of health. Some people are much more sensitive to these factors than others, and there is variation in the nature of the symptoms experienced and the types of weather changes associated with them. However, I could find no studies that offered any kind of treatment from the perspective of standard medical approaches. I assume that this is at least partly due to the fact the standard medicine considers this area to be “hypothetical”, and therefore not worthy of attention. Only the article above suggesting the use of negative ions (6) (with a vague reference to drug therapy), and one that was in German (12) offered any type of therapy at all. And as I don’t read German, I’m not sure what the suggestions were!

However, my experience has been that there is a very effective therapy for weather sensitivity: PEMF. The Medisend units manufactured by AMS contain a program designed to treat weather sensitivity, which has obtained excellent results overall.  The following case reports will give just a few examples of therapeutic results obtained in this condition.

One woman had migraines so severely that they were incapacitating. This occurred any time a new weather front would move through the area. With the first treatment, her headache was gone before the treatment was completed. Subsequent treatments have greatly reduced the severity of the migraines over time, and any migraine present during therapy has resolved completely. This has made a tremendous improvement in her quality of life.

Another patient had severe joint pain with weather changes. They had a similar response, with joint pain clearing with treatment, and subsequent reduction in both severity and frequency of symptoms over time with repeated treatments.

A third patient with fibromyalgia, fatigue and joint pain aggravated by weather changes had a 50% reduction in symptoms with the first treatment, and continued improvement with subsequent therapy. She was able to greatly reduce pain medication, and her reactions to weather changes are now mild and very manageable.

Given these clinical results, it is surprising that there is no research found on this therapy in the medical literature, given the number of adverse effects that weather sensitivity can cause. In light of the fact that there is no real medical option for treatment, this would seem to be the only viable candidate for investigation at this time and an area ripe for research. In the meantime, we have access to a therapy that is effective and safe for our patients and can help resolve a source of multiple adverse symptoms.

An Exclusive Article for OIRF Supporters
From THE BRIDGE Newsletter of OIRF
Published August 2016

© Copyright 2016, Dr. Ted Cole, Ohio, USA

About the author

References:
  1. Prevalence of weather sensitivity in Germany and Canada. International Journal of Biometeorology, January 2005, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 156-166. Sylvia von Mackensen, et. al.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis patients show weather sensitivity in daily life, but the relationship is not clinically significant. Volume 81, Issues 1–2, 1 May 1999, Pages 173–177. Amy A Gorin al.
  3. Pain complaint and the weather: weather sensitivity and symptom complaints in chronic pain patients. Pain, Volume 49, Issue 2, May 1992, Pages 199-204.Michael S. Shutty Jr., Gary Cundiff, Douglas E. DeGood.
  4. Weather sensitivity in migraineurs. Journal of Neurology, April 2011, Volume 258, Issue 4, pp 596–602. Jan Hoffmann al.
  5. The Effect of Weather on Headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. Volume 44, Issue 6, pages 596–602, June 2004. Patricia B. Prince MD et. al.
  6. New methods in the treatment of weather sensitivity. Fortschritte der Medizin [1977, 95(11):746-752]. Sulman FG al.
  7. Association of meteorological factors with suicide. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica [2003, 108(6):455-459]. Deisenhammer EAKemmler GParson.
  8. Weather as a trigger of stroke. Daily meteorological factors and incidence of stroke subtypes. Cerebrovascular Diseases (Basel, Switzerland) [2008, 26(4):348-354]. Jimenez-Conde J , Ois A , Gomis M , Rodriguez-Campello A , Cuadrado-Godia E , Subirana I , Roquer J.
  9. Associations between meteorological variables and acute stroke hospital admissions in the west of Scotland. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica [2008, 117(2):85-89]. Dawson J , Weir C , Wright F , Bryden C , Aslanyan S , Lees K , Bird W , Walters M.
  10. Can bad weather improve your memory? An unobtrusive field study of natural mood effects on real-life memory. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 45, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 254–257. Joseph P. Forgas, , Liz Goldenberg, Christian Unkelbach.
  11. Environmental Discomfort and Geomagnetic Field Influence on Psychological Mood in Athens, Greece. Indoor and Built Environment August 2006 15 no. 4 365-372. P. T. Nastos et. al.
  12. [Treatment of weather sense and weather sensitivity; foehn disease]. Med Klin. 1956 Mar 23;51(12):274-6. Hartweger, EW.

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