Lightening and Multiple Sclerosis

Ever feel extra "tingly" during a lightening storm?

 I have been trying to find scientific evidence for any connection between lightning and multiple sclerosis symptoms for over 5 years, since I made this connection in myself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was unable to find anything (scientific or not) linking lightning to MS in any way.

However, I wanted to share my experience and see if anyone else ever noticed this phenomenon themselves. When there is a great deal of lightning (yes, the lightning in the sky that is often accompanied by thunder), my nerves seem "turned on." By this I mean that while the lightning is happening, it feels like every paresthesia that I have experienced in my feet and lower legs in the past 5 years comes back full force and all at once.

Recently, we had one of those dry "electrical storms" that sent lightning flashing all over the sky and left the air smelling like ozone. My feet felt like they were on fire and my calves felt almost too weak to support me. True confession: I couldn't stand it, so I took a shot of NyQuil to go to sleep. In the morning, which was clear and bright, all symptoms were gone (except a slight grogginess from my NyQuil hangover).

I asked readers if they had similar experiences and got some very interesting responses, some of which I am featuring below:

  • I live in south Georgia USA and when thunderstorms brew there is lots of lightning activity. I have felt as if my legs had vibrators under the calves.
  • My PPMS diagnosis followed a worsening of my long-standing symptoms following a close (10 ft.) encounter with a lightning strike. It created an electrical field strong enough to fry every electronic device in the house and numb one side of my whole body, so I wouldn’t be surprised if even far-away strikes could affect a vulnerable nervous system.
  • Those feelings are most probably due to the lower barometric pressure. Whenever the pressure is low, or if it is dropping suddenly (like when a storm moves in quickly) I can feel all that tingling in my body. I like to joke around and say that I can predict storms better than the weather station!
  • Wow! I thought I was the only one that felt this. Yes, I am familiar with that feeling. To me it is not necessarily pain, just an uncomfortable feeling.
  • Yep, I had a very bad experience about a month ago. I live in NE Texas and we have a bad lighting storm. I was on the balcony of our old movie house here in town. There was also lots of electrical equipment around. As the storm moved in, I had severe spasms. My head jerked, legs kicked, etc. It was like I was the Frankenstein monster being born:) That was the first time it happened. It has happened a few times since, but not as severe.
  • I’m actually afraid to go outside during a storm. Hurts like crazy. My body is on a constant electrical buzz. My meds can’t controlled it entirely. Only keeps it at a low hum as long as I don’t get excited.
  • I’ve had many experiences with the electricity [from lightning storms]. I seem to carry a charge before and during a storm. I am very careful about what I touch. If I forget and touch a light switch, sometimes I see a blue arc and it really hurts. And the switch is grounded and shouldn’t be able to do that, but it does. Grin. MS is so weird. Oh and I don’t dare touch the cats or people until it is all over.
  • I haven’t had the tingling feeling, but in a storm like that I get an instant headache, always just above and behind my right ear. That headache can last weeks once it starts and the doctors can’t find a reason.
  • This is something that I have ALWAYS experienced…even before my MS diagnosis was formally given. In some weird way, I am pretty glad that you all are talking about this because we get lots of lightening in Colorado, and my family has always thought I was abnormally scared about it…now I can tell them there is a reason!
  • I’ve noticed a little bit of an extra buzzing during electrical storms, but some days are just like that in general.
  • I live in the Rocky Mountains and the weather seems to change on the flip of a coin. The storms make my legs hurt and go numb. My head also tingles and I begin to not feel very well. I have trouble sleeping from the twitches.
  • Last night a storm was going on. I would like to say that the lightning was almost like a strobe light at times, so it was a severe storm, and I had been awake for far too long. Despite this however, I also noticed a change when the lightning was bad from after the storm had passed over us. It almost seemed as if there were tiny pin pricks all over my skin. It was more in my legs, but I also had it some in my hands and forearms, where I typically have weakness and numbness on a daily basis. Though one other thing I noticed was that in the hours leading up to the storm, I almost felt as if the skin on my head and neck was trying to separate from my body. I can’t explain it any better than that.
  • I have also noticed that I can “feel” a storm with lightning coming in. I didn’t know how to describe this before, but yes, I get “sensitized” as it approaches, to the point that it’s a little scary and instead of being anxious to watch the storm, I find myself instinctively stepping out of the storm out of some kind of unspecified caution. I found this puzzling and bizarre, since I’ve never been scared of lightning before.
  • We’ve had hot, stormy weather in Texas and I’ve had the pins and needles too, which drives me crazy! And how can you explain that to someone without MS?
  • I live in the mountains of Colorado and the lightening is very intense. I asked my neurologist about the lightening affecting my tingly leg and she immediately dismissed it as “an old wives tale,” but then acknowledged that they have found that barometric pressure does cause changes.
  • Just the other night I said to my husband, “that lightning storm is hurting me so bad I could cry.” (I was rolling around in my bed moaning and in excruciating pain.) Then I asked him if he thought there was a real correlation and we decided that it was either the barometric pressure or the electrical field the storm was putting off. Either way, it sure hurt.

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