Difference between headache and migraine

Perhaps one of the most significant and common setback human beings experience in their lives are debilitating headaches, sometimes referred to as migraines. These headaches can be excruciating and can halt any activity performed by the person suffering from it. However, it is essential to note that people use “headaches” as an umbrella term, as it covers many different types of pain associated with the head, face, and neck. Headaches shouldn’t always be classified as migraines, or vice versa. Medications and remedies may also vary depending on whether the pain comes from a headache or a migraine, making it essential to differentiate them early. So, what’s the difference between a migraine and a headache, and how to remedy both?difference between headache and migraine

What is a Headache?

Headaches refer to bothersome pains in the head, which cause the feeling of aches and pressure. This pain usually occurs on both sides of the head and ranges from mild to severe. Other specific places headaches can occur are the temples, forehead, and the back of the neck. Different types of headaches include:

  • Cluster Headaches: These are excruciating headaches that happen on one side of the head and come in clusters, meaning people who suffer from these types of headaches often experience cycles of attacks followed by pain-free periods. 
  • Tension Headaches: These headaches are the most common type. Tension headaches cause from mild to severe behind the ears, head, and neck. Triggers for this type of headache include anxiety, stress, and muscle strain. People who suffer from these headaches often refer to them as having a tight band wrapped around their heads.
  • Sinus Headaches: This type of headache is commonly confused with a migraine. Sinus headaches usually follow with symptoms indicating a sinus infection, such as a cough, congestion, facial pressure, and fever. 
  • Thunderclap Headaches: These are the most critical type of headaches. Pain is often no less than excruciating and develops in less than 60 seconds. Thunderclap headaches are often signs of a more severe health issue, such as a subarachnoid hemorrhage, aneurysm, stroke, or other injuries. Anyone experiencing these types of headaches should call 911 immediately. 

What is a Migraine?

Migraines are a particular kind of intense, severe, or debilitating headaches. Though it may be challenging to differentiate a migraine from a headache, migraines have a few specific symptoms which occur alongside head pain that can help pinpoint it as the issue: 

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

Migraines typically only affect one side of the head. Described as intense pulsing and throbbing pain, they may make daily tasks very difficult to perform. People who suffer migraines may also experience symptoms a few days before leading up to an attack, commonly known as the “prodrome” phase. These include neck stiffness, irritability, constipation, and depression. 

Migraines may also occur due to specific triggers: hormonal changes, birth control, menopause, alcohol, and anxiety. 

Treating Headaches and Migraines

As mentioned previously, the treatment for headaches and migraines is different.  

  • Headaches: Most are treated with over-the-counter medications. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. However, since most headaches are stress-induced, relaxation techniques may also prove helpful as a remedy. Massages, heat therapy, meditation, neck stretching, and relaxation exercises are good ways to relieve tension and ease headaches. 
  • Migraines: Prevention is often the best treatment for migraines. Making changes to your diet and reworking habits to reduce stress are the first steps. Medications are also available: anti-nausea medication (such as promethazine, Thorazine, or Compazine), pain relievers (such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen), and triptans (such as rizatriptan, almotriptan, or sumatriptan).

 

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