When you have pain in your head, it becomes hard to say whether you have a typical headache or a migraine. Differentiating a migraine headache from a traditional headache and vice versa is significant. It may mean fast relief using excellent treatments. It can help avoid future headaches from taking place.
So, how can you tell the difference between a migraine and a common headache?
What is a Headache?
Headaches are unpleasant pains in the head that causes aching and pressure. The pain can be mild to severe, and they may take place on both sides of your head. Some particular areas where headaches can occur are the forehead, temples, and back of the neck.
A headache can last anywhere from 30 minutes to even a whole week. The most common headache type is the tension headache. Triggers for this headache type are stress, anxiety, and muscle strain.
Tension headaches are not the only category of headaches; other headache types are:
Cluster headaches are excruciating headaches that occur on either side of the head and come in clusters. This can mean you have cycles of headache attacks, followed by headache-free periods.
They are usually confused with a migraine. Sinus headaches co-occur with sinus infection symptoms such as fever, stuffy nose, congestion, cough, and facial pressure.
A congenital disability known as a Chiari malformation causes Chiari headaches. It can cause the skull to push against areas of your brain, usually causes pain in the back of your head.
A “thunderclap” headache is a severe headache that builds up in 60 seconds or less. It may be a symptom of a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a serious medical condition requiring immediate medical attention. An aneurysm, stroke, or other injuries may also cause this type of headache.
What is a Migraine?
Migraines are severe and usually have other symptoms in addition to head pain. Symptoms linked with a migraine headache are:
- Pain behind one eye or ear
- Pain in the temples
- Seeing spots or flashing lights
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Temporary vision loss
When compared with tension or other headache categories, migraine headache pain can be moderate to severe.
People may have headaches so severe; they require care in an emergency room. Migraine headaches will generally affect only a side of the head. However, it is still possible that a migraine headache can affect both sides of your head.
Other differences involve the pain’s quality: A migraine headache can cause intense pain that can be throbbing. It can make performing regular activities difficult.
Migraine headaches are divided into two categories:
- Migraine with aura
- Migraine without aura
An “aura” means a sensation a person experiences before they have a migraine. The sensations typically take place anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before an attack. These are:
- Feeling less mentally alert or trouble thinking
- Seeing flashing lights or unusual lines
- Feeling tingling or numbness in the hands or face
- Having an unusual sense of smell, taste, or touch
Some migraine sufferers can have symptoms a day or two before the actual migraine takes place. It is known as the “prodrome” phase; these subtler signs are:
- Frequent yawning
- Neck stiffness
- Unusual food cravings
People who experience migraines report different factors that lead to them. These are called migraine triggers and are the following:
- Emotional anxiety
- Hormonal changes
Fortunately, many tension headaches go away with over-the-counter treatments. Such as:
Most headaches are stress-induced. Taking a few steps to decrease stress can assist in relieving headaches. It can also reduce the risk of future headaches. These can be:
- Heat therapy, such as applying warm compresses or taking a warm shower
- Neck stretching
- Relaxation exercises
According to Dr Gurneet Sawhney, experienced Neurosurgeon in Mumbai, Prevention is usually the best treatment for migraine headaches. He lists some examples of preventive ways, prescribed below :
- Making changes in your diet. Eliminating foods and substances that can cause headaches, including alcohol and caffeine
- Taking prescription medications, like blood pressure-lowering medicines, antiepileptic drugs, antidepressants, or CGRP antagonists
- Steps to decrease stress
People who get migraines less frequently can benefit from having medications that can decrease migraine quickly. Examples of these medicines are:
- Anti-nausea medication, including chlorpromazine (Thorazine), promethazine (Phenergan), or prochlorperazine (Compazine)
- Mild to moderate pain relievers, like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including naproxen sodium, aspirin, or ibuprofen
- Triptans, like rizatriptan (Maxalt), almotriptan (Axert), or sumatriptan (Alsuma, Imitrex, and Zecuity)
If a person takes migraine headache medications for more than 10 days in a month, it can cause rebound headaches. This practice will worsen headaches instead of relieving them.
Identify and Treat Early
Headaches can range from a mild inconvenience to severe and debilitating. Identifying and treating headaches soon can help you to engage in preventive treatments. It will reduce the chance of future troubling headaches. Distinguishing migraine from other categories of headaches is tricky. Pay particular attention to the time when your headache begins for signs of an aura. Mention this timing to your doctor.