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Migraine Vs. Headache: Know the Difference

FIASP, MD, MBBS
Pain Management Specialist, Gurgaon  •  40 years experience
Migraine Vs. Headache: Know the Difference

Migraine vs. Headache: know the difference

How to differentiate between a migraine and headache?


When you feel pain or pressure in your head, it may become difficult for you to assess whether you are experiencing a common headache or a migraine. Let's understand how different they are from each other.

A typical headache usually affects both sides of your head and varies from a mild to moderate pain. It can last from 30 minutes to up to a period of one week.

Some specific areas which get affected by a headache are:

  •   Temples
  •   Forehead
  •   Back of your neck

Factors that trigger this headache type are a muscle strain, stress or anxiety.

A migraine, on the other hand, is also a type of a headache which results in an acute throbbing sensation in one part of your head. Usually, migraine headaches are highly painful. Migraine pain makes it difficult for a person to carry out his/her daily tasks. Symptoms or signs associated with migraine attacks are:

  •   Vomiting
  •   Nausea
  •   Sensitivity to sound or light
  •   Pain in the temples
  •   Temporary loss of vision
  •   Pain behind your ear or eye

What are the common causes of a migraine?

  •   Hormonal imbalances in women - fluctuations in oestrogen, especially during menopause or pregnancy seem to trigger a migraine
  •   Drinks like wine and extremely caffeinated beverages
  •   Foods such as salty foods, aged cheese as well as processed foods can trigger the migraine attack.
  •   Medications - vasodilators such as nitroglycerine and oral contraceptives can intensify migraine pain.

How to treat a headache?

Fortunately, you can get rid of stress-induced headaches through over-the-counter treatments, which include:

  •   Aspirin
  •   Acetaminophen
  •   Ibuprofen

How to treat a migraine?

If you experience migraine attacks less frequently, these medicines may give you quick relief:

  •   Triptans, such as rizatriptan (Maxalt) or almotriptan (Axert)
  •   Antinausea medicines, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), promethazine (Phenergan) or prochlorperazine (Compazine)
  •   Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, aspirin or ibuprofen

Some preventive tips:

  •   Make changes in your diet such as avoid such foods, including caffeine and alcohol which are believed to trigger headaches.
  •   You can also try muscle relaxation exercises, yoga or meditation to ease the migraine attack.

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Related Tip: 8 Common Migraine Triggers You Must Stay Away From

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