Is It a Migraine or Some Other Type of Headache?

headacheAnytime someone is suffering a particularly bad headache that lasts beyond a day there is a natural rush to label it a migraine.  Most of the time that assumption is incorrect.

What is a headache?

  • Unpleasant pains in your head that can cause pressure and aching
  • Can range from mild to severe pain
  • Usually occur on both sides of your head
  • Some specific areas where headaches can occur include the forehead, temples, and back of the neck
  • A headache can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common headache type is a tension headache. Triggers for a tension headache include stress, muscle strain, or anxiety.

Ignoring the Migraine for the time being, other types of headaches include:

  • Cluster Headache – severely painful headaches experienced in cycles of attack followed by periods without pain on one side of the head; and
  • Sinus Headache – Often confused with migraines, sinus headaches co-occur with sinus infection symptoms like fever, stuffy nose, cough, congestion, and facial pressure; which then leads us to the Migraine Headache.

What Is a Migraine?  Intense or severe headache often accompanied by other symptoms including:

  • nausea
  • pain behind one eye or ear
  • typically on only one side of head
  • pain in the temples
  • seeing spots or flashing lights
  • sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • temporary vision loss
  • vomiting
  • intense pain, possibly throbbing
  • performing daily tasks nearly impossible
  • pain may be so severe that the sufferer seeks care at the Emergency Room
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 29.5 million Americans experience migraines.  Migraine headaches are typically divided into two categories:  Migraine with or without an “aura.” An “aura” refers to sensations a person experiences before he or she gets a migraine.  The sensations typically occur anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before attack.
These can include:
  • feeling less mentally alert or having trouble thinking
  • seeing flashing lights or unusual lines
  • tingling or numbness in the face or hands
  • unusual sense of smell, taste, or touch

Some migraine sufferers may experience symptoms a day or two before the actual migraine occurs. Known as the “prodrome” phase, these subtler signs can include:

  • constipation
  • depression
  • frequent yawning
  • irritability
  • neck stiffness
  • unusual food cravings

So, how do you know if it’s really a migraine?  


Once you have determined that you are a migraine sufferer, it is important to try and isolate what your triggers are so that you can eliminate them and try to reduce the number days you are affected by them.  This chart is a handy guide to the most common migraine triggers.

Migraine Triggers Infographic

Image via: Migraine Triggers Infographic

The only trigger I do not see is Donald Trump.  He gives me a Migraine. 😉 Hmmm

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