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What is the difference between migraine and headache

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Headache is one of the most common conditions that can occur, to the point that anyone can experience it at least once in their life. However, many times we confuse terms and we take for granted that headache and migraine are the same, when it comes to two conditions with different causes, symptoms and treatment.

Learning to distinguish if it is an occasional headache or a more intense and frequent condition is very important to guarantee our health, since some changes in lifestyle can make the discomfort disappear and our health improve significantly. If you wonder what the difference is between migraine and headache , in this FastlyHealarticle we will explain it to you.

Characteristics of a headache

Headache is a discomfort that occurs in the head, in the area of ​​the scalp or neck and that, generally, is not caused by a serious pathology but by various triggers that, making a change in lifestyle, they can be reduced and make the discomfort disappear.

There are several types of headache , the most common are:

  • Tension headache, the most common type of headache that we usually experience.
  • Migraine headache or migraines, this condition is a specific type of headache with particular symptoms.
  • Cluster headache.
  • Sinus headache occurs in patients with sinusitis .
  • Headaches linked to a specific disease, for example those that occur when we have the flu, cold, fever, etc.

In general terms, tension headaches are the most common form of headache , with the classic symptoms that point to the typical discomfort:

  • Pain on both sides of the head
  • Usually starts at the back of the head and then moves forward
  • It can be of the oppressive type, as if something is squeezing our heads or of the deaf type
  • Normally it causes us stiffness in the neck and shoulders
  • This type of pain usually appears in periods of stress, when we feel a lot of anxiety or we are depressed. Also due to a bad night’s sleep, a hangover, bad posture or after a blow to the head. It can also be triggered when we suffer pressure on the head constantly, for example if the glasses squeeze us, if we use a very tight hair band, etc.
  • The headache usually stops when we rest and rest properly, it also presents relief with the taking of painkillers.

Signs that it is a migraine

We have previously explained that migraine is a type of headache , so it has symptoms that distinguish it from any other headache, especially due to the intensity of the pain and the way it appears. Migraine is an intense headache that occurs with other symptoms, creating a picture in which the discomfort is strong and difficult to ignore.

The main symptoms of migraine are:

  • Pain that starts on one side of the head and can stay there or spread to both sides. The discomfort can be stabbing, we feel like pecking in the area, or throbbing, as if the pain “throbbed.”
  • The pain is exacerbated with physical activity or movement, even when walking.
  • Other symptoms such as vision disturbances, sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, and sometimes even vomiting occur. In some types of migraine the patient can see an aura minutes before symptoms are triggered.
  • The discomfort is intense and can last between 4 hours and 3 days. They usually remit with rest in quiet and dark environments.
  • Because of their intensity and that they are made worse by movement, light, and noise, a migraine is a disabling condition that can cause a person to remain at home in seclusion until the pain subsides.

Specialists believe that migraines are caused by an alteration in the nerve pathways of the brain that could affect blood flow. This condition can be hereditary or be triggered in people prone to it by consuming certain foods , after bad nights of sleep, tension, hormonal changes, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine withdrawal or skipping meals.

Differences between both conditions

The symptoms of headache and migraine are quite different, so it is possible to distinguish them simply by looking at the following details:

  • Migraines produce a very intense pain that most of the time begins on one side of the head and that can prevent us from doing any physical activity, working in front of the computer and even receiving sunlight. For its part, the headache can cause intense pain but not so annoying, we can work and carry out our activities with this condition.
  • While the headache only causes discomfort in this area, the migraine also causes nausea, sensitive vision and high sensitivity to noise.
  • The headache goes away with rest and pain relievers, usually lasting no more than a few hours. The migraine, on the other hand, is intense and can last for several hours, even days. It does not subside with the use of normal painkillers and requires more intense treatment.

When to see a doctor for headaches

Headaches are a very common complaint that usually doesn’t hide a dangerous cause. However, when they occur with a certain frequency, intensity or with certain symptoms, it is very important to go to a neurologist for a diagnosis.

You should visit a specialist if:

  • Your headaches are intense and prevent you from continuing with your daily activities.
  • In addition to the headache, you have symptoms such as vision problems, nausea or sensitivity to noise.
  • Headaches become severe after several hours, lasting for a long time, even days.
  • You have never had a headache before and you start to have them frequently and intensely.
  • If you present this discomfort several times a month.
  • When in addition to pain you have problems eating or chewing, weight loss, difficulty concentrating or performing daily physical activities.

You should see a doctor urgently if:

  • The headache comes on suddenly and explosively.
  • In addition to pain, you have difficulty speaking, problems moving arms, legs, or walking, confusion, or memory loss.
  • If the pain occurs after suffering a blow to the head.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is the difference between migraine and headache , we recommend that you enter our Brain and Nerves category .

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