I don’t get migraines, but I get another type of headache that’s less common. I thought it was just me, until I was talking to a friend while we were on a flight this past weekend. She said she hoped she didn’t get a splitting headache when we landed. My mouth dropped open and I said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”
She described the pain and it sounded just like mine—sharp, stabbing pain in the sinus area just above the eyebrows. On the two occasions this has happened to me, I’m doubled over, holding my forehead, praying for it to go away. And just after landing, it does. It disappears as quick as it came.
During an episode, it literally feels as if someone is repeatedly stabbing ice picks into the front of my skull. I tend to have a pretty high pain tolerance (I know everyone says this, but my first naturally delivered baby was 10 lbs 5 oz, so I know what pain is) and even so, the first time it happened, I thought there was something drastically wrong in my head, like a tumor maybe.
I figured it had something to do with pressure since it happens on landing, but I never looked into it. My friend told me it has an actual name. Aerosinusitis, also known as Barosinusitis, is pain or damage to the sinuses usually caused by a negative pressure gradient, such as when landing a plane. If you’re sinuses are blocked in any way, the air inside them contracts on landing and the pressure can’t be equalized, resulting in the negative pressure gradient and a squeezing of the sinuses.
Most people don’t have this issue and I don’t have it every time I fly. Isn’t it amazing how God made our bodies to compensate for the pressures of high altitudes? Still, I’m glad to know this has a name and is a real issue, although I suppose my career options are limited now. I’ll never be a flight attendant.
Has this ever happened to you? Does it happen every time you fly?
P.S. If this happens to you, it’s probably a bad idea to sky dive or go deep-sea diving without talking to a doctor because the same type of pressure is involved in those activities.
References: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/862964-overview#a5, http://www.cnbc.com/id/47226552
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