Difference between headaches and migraines

Headache or migraine: how to tell the difference?

Difference between headaches and migraines! Usually, they go away on their own or after taking a painkiller. On the other hand, some headaches can severely affect the daily lives of sufferers. These are then migraines. Let’s try to see it more clearly!

Difference between headaches and migraines


The headache sometimes informs you about your way of life: you lead a too hectic existence, you have not rested enough, you have adopted a bad posture at work or you have drunk too much alcohol. Very often, your headache speaks to you, and you respond to it by taking a painkiller which, most of the time, makes it go away without asking for its rest. Headaches are usually temporary. However, for a certain number of people, less fortunate, it is a suffering that is too often part of the decor. They are then said to suffer from migraines.

It is important to distinguish the headache, which is called a headache, from a migraine. There are several types of headaches: let’s start by describing three of the most common forms: tension headaches, vascular headaches, and migraine.

  1. Tension headaches:
    This type of headache can be occasional or chronic. Symptom intensity is low to medium. Pressure (or a feeling of tightness) is felt in the forehead and temples; it is sometimes accompanied by pain in the neck.
  2. Vascular headaches:
    The frequency of this type of headache is once every two days, up to eight times a day; its duration is from a few minutes to a few hours. The pain is very intense, penetrating but not pulsating, and is on one side of the head only. Tears, congestion, and sweating may accompany the pain.
  3. Migraine:
    It can occur once a year and up to three times a day. The pain, of moderate to severe intensity, lasts from a few hours to a few days (usually between 4 and 72 hours). It is pulsatile (sensation of having a heartbeat in the head), is located on one side of the head only, and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and hypersensitivity to sound and light.


Migraine affects 7% of men and 18% of women, which is about 12% of the general population. It also affects children and adolescents in a proportion of 5 to 10%, but it is often under-diagnosed in their case. Migraine episodes usually appear during childhood or early adulthood, become rare after age 40, and often disappear after age 50.

Science doesn’t know why some people get headaches, tension headaches, or migraines and why others never get them. The intense migraine headache is thought to be triggered by a cascade of nervous system reactions involving blood vessels, neurotransmitters, and inflammation, among others.

Difference between headaches and migraines


There are signs that may announce that a migraine episode is coming. They usually appear a few hours to two days before the attack. It’s about:

  • fatigue;
  • neck stiffness;
  • food cravings;
  • yawning;
  • mood swings; and

About 20% of people who suffer from migraine experience a neurological phenomenon called the aura. This lasts from 5 to 60 minutes and precedes the migraine. It manifests itself in different ways:

  • by visual effects: reduced vision, lightning, double vision;
  • by numbness in the face, on the tongue, or in a limb; and
  • by language difficulties.


They are of two types: non-food or food origin. Here are some examples:

  1. Personal or environmental triggers:
    • the stress;
    • hunger or skipping meals;
    • changing sleep patterns;
    • a change in atmospheric pressure;
    • a noisy environment or bright light;
    • lack or excess of physical activity;
    • unusual odors (perfume, tobacco, etc.);
    • hormonal changes;
    • Certain medications.
  2. Food triggers (most common):
    • alcohol, especially red wine and beer;
    • coffee and soft drinks;
    • aged cheeses;
    • aspartame, sulfites and monosodium glutamate;
    • chocolate;
    • Cooked meats;
    • Fermented or pickled foods.


The first step in preventing migraines is to discover the elements or situations that trigger the attacks. A migraine diary will record the circumstances surrounding a migraine episode (food eaten, symptoms present, psychological state, environmental conditions, etc.).

Thereafter, you must adapt your lifestyle by ensuring:

  • reduce stress levels;
  • do not skip meals;
  • have good sleep hygiene;
  • Exercise regularly.


If you suffer from simple headaches, it’s a safe bet that the use of over-the-counter painkillers will be enough to counter the pain. However, if your headaches are intense, recurrent, or have symptoms before or during the episode, they could be migraines. It is important to see a doctor for a diagnosis.

If you suffer from migraines, over-the-counter pain relievers may not be enough. If this is the case, your doctor will prescribe you stronger medication, specifically for the relief of migraines. This type of medication is called a migraine medication. Also, if your migraines are too frequent, he may want to prescribe you another medication, Whatever medications you use to relieve your headaches or migraines (analgesics, migraine medications, or preventive medications), your pharmacist can inform you about their benefits, how to use them, their side effects and the risk. Interactions with other medications you are taking. Call on his expertise.

In summary, a migraine happens to be much more than just a passing headache! If you don’t know exactly what ailment you are afflicted with, don’t worry. See your doctor for a diagnosis. Thereafter, you can take the necessary steps to reduce the impact of migraine on your well-being and quality of life.

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