When there is pressure or pain in the head, it can be difficult to tell whether the individual is experiencing a typical headache or a migraine. Differentiating a migraine headache from a traditional headache, and vice versa, is important.
What Is A Headache?
Headaches are unpleasant pains in your head that can cause pressure and aching. The pain can range from mild to severe, and they usually occur on both sides of your head. Some specific areas where headaches can occur include the forehead, temples, and back of the neck. A headache can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week. Triggers for this headache type include stress, muscle strain, and anxiety.
What is migraine?
These headaches are intense or severe and often have other symptoms in addition to head pain. Symptoms associated with a migraine headache include:
• Pain behind one eye or ear
• Pain in the temples
• Seeing spots or flashing lights
• Sensitivity to light and/or sound
• Temporary vision loss
When compared with tension or other headache types, migraine headache pain can be moderate to severe. Some people may experience headaches so severe they seek care at an emergency room. Migraine headaches will typically affect only one side of the head. However, it is possible to have a migraine headache that affects both sides of the head. Other differences include the pain’s quality: A migraine headache will cause intense pain that may be throbbing and will make performing daily tasks very difficult.
Migraine headaches are typically divided into two categories: migraine with aura and migraine without aura. An “aura” refers to sensations a person experiences before they get a migraine. The sensations typically occur anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before an attack. These can include:
• feeling less mentally alert or having trouble thinking
• seeing flashing lights or unusual lines
• feeling tingling or numbness in the face or hands
• having an unusual sense of smell, taste, or touch
Some migraine sufferers may experience symptoms a day or two before the actual migraine occurs. Known as the “prodrome” phase, these subtler signs can include:
• frequent yawning
• Neck stiffness
• unusual food cravings
Prevention is often the best treatment for migraine headaches. Examples of preventive methods your doctor may prescribe include:
• making changes to your diet, such as eliminating foods and substances known to cause headaches, like alcohol and caffeine
• taking prescription medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure lowering medicines, antiseptic medicines, or CGRP antagonists
• taking steps to reduce stress