Migraine vs Headache – Identification and Differences
The sharp pain in your temples is something that most people have experienced. Another headache? Well, wait a minute.
More than 37 million men, women, and children in the United States suffer from migraines, yet less than 5% of those affected have received a proper diagnosis and treatment, according to nurse practitioner Brandeis Brockman, CRNP, BSN, MSN.
Learn the differences between migraine vs headaches before dismissing your suffering as simply another headache. You might find the long-needed relaxation by understanding their main contrasts.
Common Headaches: Types and Causes
Knowing the location and character of your pain can help pinpoint the source of your headache because there are numerous distinct forms of headaches.
The most typical varieties include:
Tension Headaches vs Migraines
The discomfort from tension headaches frequently begins at the back and moves forward, spreading to both sides of the head. The most typical type of headache discomfort is this one. Tension headaches can be chronic and are commonly brought on by fatigue, stress, and hunger.
Compared to migraines, tension headaches are more frequent and less severe. Almost always, the discomfort from a tension headache affects both sides of the head or neck. Your head feels as if it is being squeezed by a band or vice. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound are typically absent from tension headaches.
Sinus Headaches vs Migraines
These headaches frequently occur when you are ill or congested. They result in pain behind the cheeks, around the nose, and in the eyes and are brought on by swelling in the sinus passages. When you first wake up in the morning and when you lean forward, the pain is frequently at its worst.
Cluster Headaches vs Migraines
Headaches that occur in “clusters,” or on a daily basis (often at the same time), perhaps up to multiple times each day for months, are typically exceedingly unpleasant. They are the result of serotonin and histamines being released, which causes dilating blood vessels in the brain. Physical strain, strong lighting, or even altitude can all contribute to them.
Compared to tension and migraine headaches, it is far less frequent. An extended stretch without a headache follows a cluster of weeks to months-long headaches. Cluster headaches typically affect the side of the head behind one eye and are quite painful. Red and watery eye symptoms are present. The eyelid enlarges and droops. On the affected side, the nostril is frequently runny or clogged.
How Do Migraines Occur?
Most people frequently picture a terrible headache when they hear the term “migraine.” Although they might vary in intensity and duration, headaches are simply one symptom of migraines.
According to Brockman, migraines are a neurological condition that involves neuronal pathways and neurotransmitters.
The blood in the brain and its surrounding tissues is impacted by the variations in brain activity, leading to a variety of symptoms. Migraine sufferers may have some or all of the following symptoms in addition to severe head pain:
- Heightened sensitivity to sound, light, or scent
- Extreme tiredness
There are four possible phases to a migraine episode, however not everyone goes through each one. The phases consist of:
- Prodrome Phase: The prodrome phase, also known as the pre-headache phase, is characterized by painless sensations that start several hours or days before the migraine really manifests. These include changes in mood, cravings for certain foods, and neck stiffness.
- Aura Phase: Before or during a migraine, there may be sensory abnormalities known as auras. The ability to see, feel, or speak may be affected by auras, however not everyone who has migraines gets them. Auras include symptoms such as hazy vision, blind patches that progressively get bigger, limb numbness, and slurred or garbled speech.
- Headache Phase: The pain usually begins here and can be anything from slight to incapacitating. Pain may get worse with physical exercise, exposure to light, sound, and scents. Some individuals, though, may experience a migraine but not a headache.
- Postdromal phase: This stage occurs after the discomfort has passed. During this time, people may experience fatigue, confusion, or overall ill health.
Causes of Migraine
When talking about migraines vs headache, migraines typically have frequent triggers but no one cause, headaches typically have easily identifiable causes. If you get migraines, you could discover that some situations make them worse.
Depending on the individual, triggers may include:
Gender and Hormones: Women are three times more likely than males to experience migraines due to hormonal changes and gender differences. According to Brockman, women’s migraines are influenced by menstrual cycles and hormonal fluctuations.
Allergies: Also known as allergic rhinitis, allergies cause the body to itch and inflame. Allergies are a known trigger for some people because migraines are linked to blood vessel inflammation.
Genetics and family history: Individuals who have migraine sufferers in their families are more prone to experience migraines themselves. A genetic mutation that affects those who get the most common type of migraine frequently has been found by scientists.
Environmental Causes: This group contains a variety of triggers, such as changes in the weather, stress, certain foods, scents, and a lack of sleep.
Diagnosis for Migraine vs Headaches
Accurate and prompt diagnosis are necessary for headache diseases to be effectively treated. Unfortunately, correct diagnosis of headache disorders is difficult for patients and their doctors to achieve.
Based on a patient’s symptoms, medical history, and family history, a clinician can identify several headache conditions, including migraine.
They might suggest a person see a neurologist, a doctor who focuses on problems with the nervous system.
Prevention Without Drugs
Some lifestyle choices may also aid in the prevention of some headache and migraine types. These consist of:
- Regular exercise
- Dietary modifications to minimize stress-inducing foods
- Relaxation techniques like mindful breathing and meditation
- Learning stress-reduction strategies
- Keeping a headache or migraine diary to identify patterns and potential triggers
Time to Get Help
If recurrent headaches affect a person’s capacity to function or quality of life, they should think about talking to a healthcare professional.
Additionally, people should visit a doctor if their headaches result in any of the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting issues
- Difficulty speaking or comprehending what others are saying
- Difficulty thinking
- Difficulty moving one side of the body
- Tingling or numbness in the limbs, face, neck, or head
Migraine vs Headache – Key Takeaway
Although all headaches are not migraines, all migraines are headaches. Migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are the three basic headache kinds that are most frequently experienced. It might be challenging to distinguish between a migraine and other types of headaches.
You can determine whether you have a migraine or another type of headache by keeping track of the symptoms and patterns of your headaches. The first step in developing a treatment strategy that can ease your headaches is identifying the type(s) of headache you are experiencing.
Most people will, at some point in their lives, have a headache. Headaches vary in severity, frequency, and underlying causes, thus they are not all the same.
The severity of a person’s functional capacity and general quality of life can be greatly impacted by headache disorders. For this reason, correct diagnoses are crucial between migraine vs headache.
Treatment that is quicker and more successful can result from correctly identifying headaches from distinct migraine headache kinds.