What Is The Difference Between A Headache And A Migraine?

What Is The Difference Between A Headache And A Migraine?

Woman wondering if she has a headache or a migraine and what their differences are.

Is a migraine just a bad headache? Well, it isn’t!

For most people, it’s difficult to differentiate when you’re having a headache or a migraine. But, learning to correctly identify these two is the best way to access the right medication for quicker relief. Also, this can help prevent future occurrences.

The big question though; is how can I differentiate the typical headache from a migraine? We answer this and much more in this article. Read on!

What is a Migraine?

A migraine occurs when a series of intense neurochemical triggers causes electrical depolarization waves at the cells’ surfaces, which then spread all over the brain. The severity of the migraine attacks depends on the effects of these electrical waves, causing head pain among other symptoms.

Some of these symptoms associated with migraines include:

  • Aching of the muscles
  • Aching of the shoulders and neck
  • Being sensitive to sound and/or even light
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Experiencing pain behind one of your ears or eyes, and in the temples
  • Seeing flashing or spots lights

Migraine head pains are more severe compared to typical headaches and tensions. Also, most migraine pain affects only one side of the head, although in some cases it can affect both sides. 

Additionally, due to the painful nature of migraines, you can barely perform your daily duties.

Types of Migraines

There are two types of migraine episodes, namely:

Migraine with Aura

This is a type of migraine where you experience several sensations before you start experiencing a migraine headache. You might start experiencing some of these sensations from around 10-30 minutes before the attack. Some common sensations include:

  • Not thinking straight or struggling to be mentally alert
  • A tingling or numbing feeling on your face or hands
  • Experiencing an unusual sense of smell and/or taste
  • Beginning to see unusual lines or flashlights.

Migraine without Aura

Here you do not experience any warning sensations before a migraine attack. 

What Triggers Migraines? 

Some of the common factors associated with migraines include:

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Some types of foods
  • Extreme physical exertion
  • Some medications
  • Lack of enough sleep
  • Genetics 
  • Age and gender
  • Experiencing emotional anxiety
  • Prolonged fasting
  • Hormonal changes due to various factors, including contraceptives, and so much more.

Migraines can last for many hours or even a few days. 

What is a Headache?

Headaches are the most common types of head pains. They normally cause pressure on your head and lead to aching (more like a throbbing). Also, a typical headache will hurt on both sides of the head and can be mild or even extreme. You might experience headache pain around your forehead, the back of your neck, or the temples. 

Types of Headaches

There are three types of headaches:

Tension headaches

They are the most popular, and are chronic. Tension headaches tend to begin from the back of your bead forward, affecting your entire head as they progress. The causes include prolonged hunger, experiencing eye strain, or feeling stressed.

Sinus headaches

They’re mainly a result of nasal passage blockages, and are more severe in the morning compared to other times of the day. These headaches cause pain in your cheeks, eyes, and nose. 

Cluster headaches

Although cluster headaches are the least common, they’re also the most severe when they occur.  You can feel them a few times throughout the day or month, and the main triggers are extreme brightness, heights, or exertion. 

Most headaches last for around 30 minutes to a few hours. 

How Can I Treat a Headache/ Migraine?

First, always seek medical help when experiencing extreme and/or recurring migraines and headaches. 

Other than that, you can use some common doctor-recommended medications and remedies to relieve the pain. They include:

Prescription medications

Once you visit your doctor, you will receive a proper diagnosis and a medication prescription will follow right after. 

Drug-free pain relief

If at home or in the office, you can try using cool and heating packs for immediate relief. This is also the best way to counter triggers, as you listen to your body and consider if you need to see a doctor.

Over-the-counter medications

Your local pharmacy is the best place to buy over-the-counter medicines for your migraine/headache pain. Some popular medications include aspirin and ibuprofen, and you shouldn’t take them too often. 

Apart from the above methods, lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, enough sleep/resting, meditation, and regular exercises can help you curb those regular headaches and migraines.

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