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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

Is It a Migraine or a Headache?

When there is a problem, in order to come up with the desired solution, one must first find the cause of the problem – This is precisely why it is important for a person to be able to tell the difference between a headache and a migraine so that it can be effectively treated.

Headache: Types, Signs, and Treatment

A person who experiences a headache will feel an undesirable amount of pressure, pain, and ache in their head which can range from milk to severe.

It occurs simultaneously on both sides of your head in areas like:

  1. Forehead

  2. Neck

  3. Temples

They usually last anywhere from a few hours upto a week.

Headaches can be caused due to several triggers and can be classified into several types. They include:

●    Tension Headache

It is the most common type of headache caused by triggers like stress, anxiety, and muscle strain.


Tension headache due to stress, Credit: Pexels

●    Cluster Headache

This type of pain is experienced in clusters – meaning there is a period of painful headache which is followed by a short interval of pain-free period until the pain returns and the cycle continues.

Note: This is one of the few types of headaches that occurs on one side of the head.

●    Chiari Headache

It is caused by a defect known as  Chiari malformation, a birth defect which causes the skull to push against parts of the brain and therefore causing pain in the back of the head due to the applied pressure.

●    Sinus Headache

It is caused due to sinus infection due to pathogens, especially in people with a weak immune system. Symptoms include fever, stuffy nose, cough, congestion, and facial pressure and may last up to 8 weeks. The infection usually goes away on its own.


Head injury can cause sudden thunderclap headache, Credit: flickr

●    Thunderclap Headache

This is a very severe headache and migraine that develops instantly – in 60 seconds or less.

It can be caused due to injury or strokes and could be a symptom of a serious medical condition known as subarachnoid hemorrhage. Thus, sudden headaches due to sudden head injuries or complications must be attended to immediately.


Over-the-counter medicines

  1. acetaminophen

  2. aspirin

  3. ibuprofen

Relaxation techniques for stress-induced headaches

  1. Heat therapy- warm compresses or  warm shower

  2. massage

  3. meditation

  4. neck stretching

  5. relaxation exercises like yoga

Migraines: Symptoms and Treatment

Headache woman

Additional severe symptoms due to migraines, Credit: Pixabay

People with migraines experience the same symptoms of a traditional headache but will also experience intense and severe symptoms like:

  1. nausea and vomiting

  2. Blurry vision

  3. pain behind one eye or ear

  4. Extreme pain in the temples

  5. seeing spots

  6. sensitivity to light and/or sound

  7. Throbbing and distracting pain

Thus, the main difference in migraines and traditional headaches is the quality and intensity of pain and symptoms experienced, which is to a higher extent in migraines.

Typically, Migraine headaches affect only one side of the head. About 30 minutes before a migraine attack, a person will experience symptoms like:

  1. Lack of concentration

  2. Less alertness

  3. Trouble thinking

  4. Numbness

  5. Unusual sense of smell, taste, or touch

  6. Irritability

Spinning around

Blurry vision, Credit: Flickr

Migraine triggers

They include:

  1. Anxiety

  2. contraceptives

  3. alcohol

  4. hormonal changes leading to menstrual migraine

  5. menopause


For treatment and prevention:

  1. Making changes to your diet

  2. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine

  3. Prescription medications (antidepressants, blood pressure-lowering medicines, antiepileptic medications, or CGRP antagonists)

  4. Avoid bright light and loud noises

  5. Avoid over chewing

  6. Medications to reduce stress

Person taking pills

Medication Treatments, Credit: Pexels

Such medications include:

  1. Anti-nausea medicines like Phenergan, chlorpromazine (Thorazine), or prochlorperazine (Compazine)

  2. Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, naproxen sodium, or ibuprofen

Note: Medications should not be consumed regularly as it will reverse its effectiveness and cause rebound headaches with worse symptoms.



MigrainesPain occurs in bilayer location ( like both sides of the forehead)Pain occurs in unilateral location (like one side of the face)Distinct difference: Not accompanied by nausea and vomiting.Distinct difference: Accompanied by nausea and vomiting.Attacks can last from 4-72 hoursPain can last from 30 minutes to a week

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