What’s the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine?

What’s the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine?

Migraines affect at least 39 million people in the United States, and most aren’t receiving effective care. Many people mistake migraines for typical headaches and put off seeking specialized care. 

Knowing the key differences between migraines and headaches can bring you much-needed relief. The Beverly Hills Headache Institute specializes in diagnosing and treating headaches and migraines. 

My team combines a holistic approach, considering lifestyle, diet, and other factors when creating an individualized treatment plan to effectively manage your migraines and improve your quality of life. Read on to learn if that headache is more likely a migraine.

What are the characteristics of a migraine? 

While many people think of a migraine as a severe type of headache, migraines are a neurological condition that involves chemicals and neurologic pathways. 

A migraine attack can have four distinct phases, though not everyone experiences all four:

The prodrome phase, also known as the pre-headache phase, is characterized by symptoms like headaches and mood swings that happen hours or days before the migraine attack. 

Auras are sensory disturbances that occur before or during a migraine attack. Auras can impair a person's vision, touch, or speech, but they do not affect everyone who suffers from migraines. Auras include blurred vision, blind spots that expand over time, and slurred speech.

The headache phase is when most people experience pain, which can range from mild to debilitating. Physical activity and exposure to light, sound, and odors, may aggravate the pain. It’s also possible to have a migraine without head pain. 

The postdrome phase is the stage after the pain has subsided. During this stage, you may feel exhausted, confused, or generally unwell.

How are migraines different from typical headaches?

Headaches are characterized by head pressure or tension that waxes and wanes. The onset is sudden. Migraine pain is felt on one side of the head, the onset is gradual, and it typically follows a cyclical pattern. 

Migraines cause a throbbing sensation and can last for up to 72 hours. Whereas the typical headache lasts a few hours. 

Auras are a sure sign that you're suffering from a migraine. Sensitivity to light and sound is common. When a migraine strikes, you may need to lie down in a quiet area until it passes. 

What triggers migraines?

Migraines have multiple triggers, and they vary from person to person. Common triggers include:

Hormonal changes: Women are more likely than men to have migraines. Sensitivity to changes in hormones is thought to be involved.

Allergies: Allergies are a known trigger for some people. This is because migraines are linked with inflammation of the blood vessels.

Family history: People with migraines in their family are more likely to develop migraines themselves. Researchers have discovered a genetic mutation common in people who suffer from the most common type of migraine.

Environmental triggers: Things in your environment, such as changes in weather, certain smells, and even certain foods, can trigger migraines. Stress is also a common migraine trigger.

Help for migraines

The Beverly Hills Headache Institute offers comprehensive migraine treatment. Our multidisciplinary facility specializes in the treatment of complex or difficult-to-treat headache conditions.

Whether you are suffering from your first migraine or have a history of failed treatments, our goal is to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

If you’re suffering from debilitating migraines, rely on our team at The Beverly Hills Headache Institute to help you find effective solutions. 

Get started today by calling 310-382-1056 or submitting a booking request online to schedule a visit today. The Beverly Hills Headache team is here to provide the support and treatment to help you feel better and control your migraines. 

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