Uncover the Difference: Migraine vs Headache

Do you ever get confused between a migraine and headache? Confusing a migraine and headache is understandable due to their shared symptoms, yet there are key distinctions between the two. Let’s explore these two conditions in more detail: what is a migraine versus a headache? What makes them different from one another and how can chiropractic care help with both migraines and headaches? Get ready for an interesting exploration into the world of migraines versus headaches.

Table of Contents:

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is a debilitating headache characterized by throbbing pain that can last for hours or days, typically starting as a dull ache and escalating in intensity. It usually begins as a dull ache and gradually increases in intensity until it becomes an unbearable pain. The pain may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes visual disturbances such as flashing lights or blind spots. Migraines may be experienced on either one side or both simultaneously. Aura, which can signal an impending migraine, may present as tingles in the limbs, speech difficulty, altered sight, giddiness, one-sided weakness or disorientation.

Migraine episodes may differ from individual to individual, yet they commonly last anywhere in the range of four to seventy-two hours if not treated. For those with severe migraine symptoms, prescription medications such as triptans are often prescribed to manage the pain and associated issues like nausea and vomiting.

Episodic migraines, occurring fewer than 15 days per month, and chronic headaches manifesting over three months or longer without any respite between episodes are the two main types of migraine. Not to be confusded with tension headaches described as feeling like tightness around the forehead; or cluster headaches which cause sharp stabbing pains behind your eyes; or ocular migraines manifest with flashes of light.

Migraines can be debilitating, but with the right treatment they can be managed and even prevented. It’s essential to recognize the variations between migraines and headaches in order to obtain suitable treatment for one’s condition.

Key Takeaway: Migraines are agonizing, pulsating headaches that can span from a few hours to multiple days and may be associated with queasiness, vomiting, light/sound sensitivity. They come in two forms: episodic (less than 15 daysmonth) or chronic (longer than three months without any break). Other types of headache include tension-type, cluster-headache ocular migraine and medication overuse.

What is a Headache?

Headache is a common condition that causes pain in the head, face, or neck. Headache can vary from minor to intense and be due to stress, strain, lack of fluids or other causes. A headache usually presents as a dull ache but can also be sharp and throbbing. It may come on suddenly or build up over time. People often describe headaches as feeling like pressure inside their heads.

Muscle contractions in the neck and scalp area due to stress or fatigue often cause tension headaches, which may present as an overall band-like sensation around the head with occasional spikes of intense pain behind one eye or temple area. Tension headaches may persist for a few hours and could recur in the course of the day if not managed with restful practices like diaphragmatic breathing or massage.

Migraines are often more intense than regular tension headaches and tend to affect only one side of the head rather than both sides like tension headaches do. Migraines are characterized by throbbing pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light/sound/smell/touch, visual disturbances (such as seeing spots), confusion or disorientation and even loss of consciousness in extreme cases. Migraines are believed to be caused by alterations in brain activity that may result from various environmental stimuli such as particular foods, inadequate sleep or overexposure to light. Treatment options include prescription medications such as triptans (which work best when taken early during an attack) along with lifestyle modifications including reducing stress levels through yoga or meditation etc.

Headaches can range from mild to severe, but they are usually not a cause for concern. Realizing the distinctions between headaches and migraines is imperative to figure out an ideal treatment plan.

Key Takeaway: Headaches can vary in intensity, typically presenting as a dull throbbing or squeezing feeling in the head. Tension headaches are usually caused by stress and present with an overall band-like sensation around the head; whereas migraines tend to be more intense and affect only one side of the head accompanied by nausea, visual disturbances etc. 

How are Migraines Different from Headaches?

Migraines and headaches are two very different types of head pain. Migraines tend to be more intense than headaches, and can last for hours or even days at a time. Headaches may cause a dull ache or pressure in both areas of the head, while migraines typically bring about pulsing pain that is focused to one side. Other symptoms associated with migraines include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, as well as visual disturbances such as seeing flashes of light or zigzag lines in your vision.

In contrast to regular headaches, migraines possess distinctive qualities that make them more intense. For example, some people experience an “aura” before their migraine starts—this may involve seeing flashing lights or having temporary blind spots in their vision. Some people also experience numbness in their face or extremities prior to a migraine attack starting up.

Migraine attacks can be triggered by certain foods (such as aged cheese), stress levels (both physical and emotional), changes in sleep patterns, weather changes (particularly barometric pressure shifts) and hormonal fluctuations (especially during menstrual cycles). Many people who suffer from migraines find that avoiding known triggers helps reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks they experience over time.

To help prevent future episodes, it is recommended to employ a number of lifestyle strategies such as reducing stress levels through relaxation techniques like yoga and mindfulness meditation; eating nourishing meals throughout the day; getting adequate restful sleep each night; engaging in regular physical activity; avoiding bright lights/loud noises when feasible; taking periodic breaks if working long hours on computers/screens etc.; utilizing aromatherapy oils like lavender oil during stressful times, drinking plenty water daily etc. Furthermore, there are various medications specifically designed for treating migraines including triptans which can assist in decreasing inflammation around blood vessels located near the brainstem that often leads to migraine-related pain.

Key Takeaway: Migraines can be a more intense form of head pain than common headaches, and may be set off by various elements such as foodstuffs, stress levels, slumber habits or hormonal variations. To prevent future episodes it is recommended to employ lifestyle strategies like relaxation techniques and medications specifically designed for treating migraines.


In summary, recognizing the distinction between a migraine and a headache is essential for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Migraines are more severe than headaches in terms of pain intensity, duration, symptoms experienced, and impact on daily life activities. Knowing the signs of migraines vs headaches can help you identify when to seek medical attention or chiropractic care for relief from your discomfort.

If you suffer from migraine or headache, consider visiting a chiropractor for an individualized assessment and tailored treatment plan to help reduce your symptoms. With professional care, you can find relief and improved wellness today.

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