Headache, Migraine

Migraine vs Headache


In migraine, an individual may experience severe throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head. This condition is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivities to light, sound, and touch.

Migraines can last for hours or days that may affect the daily activities adversely. The use of medications in conjunction with lifestyle changes and self-help remedies can ease the pain of migraines as well as prevent them from reoccurring. 

Migraine vs Headache

There is a significant difference between a migraine and a typical headache based on their symptoms and causes. Migraine sufferers and their healthcare professionals can identify it by keeping a diary of following symptoms for at least eight weeks;

  • Onset of symptoms
  • Nature of migraine
  • Duration of migraine 
  • Aura or any other migraine-related symptoms
  • It may be triggered by stress or menstruation
  • Medications used and their effects

Causes of Migraine

The cause of migraines varies from person to person. Common migraine causes include:

  • Hormonal changes such as menstruation
  • An emotional trigger like stress, depression, anxiety, or excitement
  • Foods containing the additives tyramine and monosodium glutamate (MSG) including alcohol, caffeine, nuts, cheese, citrus fruits etc.
  • Certain birth control pills, sleeping pills, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Fluctuating screens, strong smells, secondhand smoke, loud noises, stuffy rooms, temperature changes, and bright lights 

Other may include

  • Fatigue
  • Incomplete sleep
  • Bad posture
  • Excessive physical exertion
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Erratic eating schedule

Note: Whenever possible, avoid migraine triggers to reduce its frequency.

Effects of Migraine

Migraine may affect:

  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Chemical balance
  • Vascular system

Stages of Migraine


60% of migraineurs experience following symptoms hours or days before they get a headache:

  • Light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, and a sense of smell
  • Lead to fatigue
  • Food cravings and mood swings
  • Dehydration
  • Bruising


Aura symptoms arise from the nervous system, often affecting the vision of an individual. They usually begin gradually and last less than an hour, starting over a period of 5 to 20 minutes.

They may include:

  • The perception of black dots, wavy lines, flashes of light, or things that doesn’t exist (hallucinations)
  • Tight vision
  • Being incapable of seeing at all
  • A tingling sensation or numbness on one side of the body
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • A heavy feeling in the limbs and arms
  • The changes in the sense of smell, taste, or touch


It is often characterized by a dull ache that develops into throbbing pain that may be aggravated by exercise. Depending on where the pain is, it may be on one side of your head or maybe on the front of your head, or it may affect your entire head.

About 80% of people suffer from nausea and a headache, as well as vomiting, and feeling faint or pale is also common. An average migraine headache lasts four hours, while severe migraines can last for more than three days. 


It may last for one day following a headache. It includes:

  • Exhaustion, feeling drained or feeling cranky
  • An unusual sense of well-being or happiness
  • An unusual sense of weakness
  • Accompanied by hunger or cravings

Migraine Symptoms

Prior to the headache

In the early stages, someone might experience a “prodrome,” which is characterized by emotional changes particularly depression and irritability. Prodromes may include yawning, dizziness, thirst, frequent urination, and hypersensitivity to light and sound. At times, an aura can occur as well. 

While suffering from the headache

 Nausea, vomiting, neck pain, dizziness, and nasal congestion may accompany a mild to severe throbbing or pulsating headache. There may be tiredness and irritability for two or more days following the headache. These symptoms are referred as “migraine hangovers.”

  • Exercising or exerting yourself can worsen the pain.
  • The pain may shut you out of performing regular activities.
  • Occasionally, lying quietly in a darkened room can help to decrease the sensitivity to light and sounds.
  • In addition to sweating and feeling unusually hot or cold, you might also experience stomachaches and diarrhea.


Depending on your family history, medical history, symptoms, and a physical or neurological examination, a neurologist (headache specialist) may diagnose migraine. A number of tests may be necessary to rule out other causes of pain if your condition is unusual, complex, or suddenly got severe:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

 MRI scans produce detailed images of the brain and blood vessels with the help of a powerful magnetic field and radio waves. MRI helps in diagnosing the tumors, strokes, bleeding in the brain, infections, and other neurological conditions. MRI scans are also used to diagnose the strokes.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

 CT scans use X-rays to produce detailed images of the brain. This aids doctors in diagnosing tumors, infections, bleeding, brain damage, and other possible causes of headache.

Migraine Treatment:

Migraines are incurable. The symptoms of anxiety can be treated with medications and several precautionary steps to reduce its severity/frequency of the episodes. Initiating the treatment as soon as symptoms appear may prevent them from becoming severe.

These over-the-counter medications may be helpful to people who suffer from migraines:

  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Some other medications include

  • Triptans, such as Imitrex (sumatriptan) can be used to reverse the damage caused by migraines.
  • Antiemetics may be prescribed for nausea.

Overuse of medications can cause a rebound headache. Healthcare professional must be consulted to determine the required dosage of medication that is safe and effective.


  • https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/migraines-headaches-migraines 
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360207 
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/148373#treatment 
Was This Content Helpful?