What Is The Difference Between Migraine And Headaches?

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.

Gurneet Sawhney Created on 11th Oct, 21

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 it 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 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:


1 . Cluster headaches : 
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.


2. Sinus headaches : 
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.


3. Chiari headaches : 
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.


4. Thunderclap headaches : 
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:

  • Nausea
  • Pain behind one eye or ear
  • Pain in the temples
  • Seeing spots or flashing lights
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Vomiting

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 having 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:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Frequent yawning
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Unusual food cravings

Migraine triggers

People who experience migraines report different factors that lead to them. These are called migraine triggers and are the following:

  • Emotional anxiety
  • Contraceptives
  • Alcohol
  • Hormonal changes
  • Menopause

Treating Headaches

(i) Over-the-counter treatments

Fortunately, many tension headaches go away with over-the-counter treatments. Such as:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen

(ii) Relaxation techniques

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
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Neck stretching
  • Relaxation exercises


Treating Migraine :

(i) Prevention tips

According to Dr Gurneet Sawhney, an experienced Neurosurgeon in Mumbai, Prevention is usually the best treatment for migraine headaches. He lists some examples of preventive ways, prescribed below :

  • Make 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

(ii) Medications

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.


(iii) Identify and Treat Early

Headaches can range from 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.



Relevant Questions

Q. What treatment can cure my mother from her migraine?

Migraine has a 2-step treatment 

  • 1st – Intensive treatment
  • 2nd – Long term treatment
Read more

Q. What factors make you prone to stroke?

  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Heart condition
  • Hyper homocysteinemia. 
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Q. What could be the underlying causes of stroke?

The onset of atherosclerosis with increasing age increases the chances of stroke greatly. The other risk factors include consumption of tobacco, reduced physical activity, unhealthy diet, excessive intake of alcohol, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, obesity, male gender coupled with genetic and psychological reasons.

Read more

Q. For what reasons do people develop speech problems?

Speech problems can be because of:

  • Local problems i.e. oro motor muscle issues called Dysarthria
  • Central causes i.e. brain-related issues called Dysphasia.
Read more

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