How to Tell Headaches from Migraines
Patients who suffer from migraines know all too well what they are. However, for many the distinction is elusive. When you have pain and pressure in your head, knowing whether you are experiencing a headache or a migraine can help to treat it. Also, if the pain is recurring, knowing the difference can give you a better chance of avoiding it. Keep reading to learn some simple ways to tell the difference between headaches and migraines.
Headaches are Mild to Moderate
The first distinction that can be made between headaches and migraines is the severity of the pain experienced. In most cases, migraines are characterized by stronger pain. Headaches are unpleasant, but generally the pain can be described as being of mild to moderate severity. Headaches are often felt in the temples, forehead or the lower back of the head near the neck. Unlike migraines, the pain and pressure is experienced on both sides of the head. A typical headache can last from thirty minutes to a couple of hours, but some can last for days. Tension-type headaches, which are caused by stress and anxiety, are the most common type of headaches.
Headaches tend to respond well to over the counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Tension-type headaches can also be treated with treatments that are effective to relieve stress and anxiety. Warm compresses, massage and relaxation techniques can all be used to reduce tension-type headache pain and pressure.
Migraines are Moderate to Severe
As stated earlier, the most obvious difference between headaches and migraines is the severity of the pain. Migraine sufferers describe the pain as moderate to severe. In fact, some migraine patients experience pain so bad that it can make daily tasks difficult to perform and can even require a trip to the emergency room.
Aside from severity, there are, of course, other differences. Migraine pain tends to have a throbbing quality. Unlike headaches, migraines are highly localized. Typically, the pain and pressure is experienced on only one side of the head.
There are two more major differences that distinguish migraines from headaches. The first is that migraines can be accompanied by other symptoms. Some of these are:
- Sensitivity to sound
- Sensitivity to light
- Vision loss
The other distinctive feature that some migraine sufferers experience is referred to as an “aura.” Auras are symptoms that a migraine sufferer experiences shortly before a migraine occurs. Auras come in many different forms like seeing flashing lights, numbness in a part of the body or sensing a particular odor.
Migraine treatment is approached with an emphasis on prevention. Changing one’s diet or lifestyle, changing medications and refraining from drinking or smoking are some of the ways that migraines are avoided, but it will be a specific change for each patient. Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and triptans may also be prescribed to manage the pain.
The experts at New Jersey Headache Institute have years of experience helping patients manage and eliminate all types of headaches and migraines. Contact us today for a consultation. We will diagnose your headache or migraine and help you get them under control.
Dr. Payman Sadeghi is the co-founder of the New Jersey Headache Institute. He studied medicine at Nordestana University and finished his Internal Medicine internship and Neurology residency at the University of Texas. Dr. Sadeghi has completed an electromyography super fellowship as well as many epilepsy and neuroimaging fellowships. At his residency in Neurology at the University of Texas Medical Branch Dr. Sadeghi gained extensive experience diagnosing and treating headache and migraine patients. That residency, along with Dr. Sadeghi's medical curiosity and his varied clinical experience, has made him a specialist in headaches and their treatment.
Dr. Sadeghi was also a clinical assistant professor during his time at the University of Texas. He is a member of the American Headache Society, the National Headache Foundation and the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. Sadeghi is fluent in English, Spanish, French and Persian.