Migraine is a common health problem, which affects at least 60 million Americans. So what is the difference between a headache and a migraine? Most of us, interchange the two, since migraines and headaches are perceived to be very similar. However, it is important to know the difference, in order to use the right treatments and get faster relief.
Migraine vs. Headache
Headaches cause a painful feeling, a pressure that usually happens on both sides of your head. The two main types of headaches are:
- Cluster headache. This can happen on a specific part on our head, usually caused by physical exertion, bright lights, and even caused by altitude or being exposed to heights, and it may cause tearing from the eye;
- Tension headache. This the most common type which happens at the back of our eyes, on our face, neck, or base of the skull. The usual reasons for us to suffer from a tension headache are eye strain, stress, and/or hunger.
On the other hand, migraines causes a more intense or severe head pain, which is accompanied by more symptoms like nausea, vomiting, pain behind eyes or ears, in our temples, sensitivity to light, sound or smell, problems with vision. The recurring pain may last up to four to 72 hours. There are different types of migraines, which we will discuss later on, to further identify them from one another.
Now, the only similarity that migraines and headaches have, is that they both bring pain to our heads. The factors that distinguishes one from the other are:
- Intensity of pain. Pain is much more intense with a migraine, compared to a regular headache. Migraines are often accompanied by intense pain from the inside of your skull, to a throbbing feeling in the temples, and/or pain behind the eyes.
- Duration. Headaches may typically last for a few hours especially if treated immediately. Meanwhile, migraines can last longer, even for days.
- Symptoms. A headache is just a painful feeling in our head, while migraines come with different symptoms like sensitivity to light, smell, sounds, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue
Know the Types of Migraine
There is more to migraines, than just suffering from a severe pain in the head and other symptoms. Two of the major types of migraine are: migraine with aura, and migraine without aura. “Aura” refers to a neurological symptom that usually happens before a headache. About 20% of migraine sufferers initially experience an ‘aura,’ serving as some kind of a warning sign, before the occurrence of a headache. This usually causes for us to experience changes in our visions like seeing flashing lights or lines, numbness, or tingling sensation in some parts of our body.
- Migraine with aura is also called the classic migraine, and it is also the most frequent type that we may experience. It causes moderate, to severe pulsating pain, which may come along with nausea, confusion, blurry eyesight, seeing visual zigzag lines or blank patches, stiff shoulders, neck, or limbs. Sometimes, even the slightest movement worsens the pain. Some people who have suffered from this type of migraine note that the visual disturbance is similar to a bright camera flash light.
- Migraine without aura, is a common migraine, which causes an abnormal sensation, numbness, muscle weakness in a specific side of your body, nausea, and/or loss of appetite.
Other types, also include: a chronic migraine, which is characterized by its frequent occurrence, happening for about four hours a day, and more than 15 days or more per month. There is also Hemiplegic migraine, which is a rare type, that may cause temporary paralysis that can last for several days during extreme cases. It may also cause vertigo, stabbing sensation, and vision problem.
Root Causes of Migraine
So what exactly are the root causes of Migraine? There are several reasons that trigger migraines, such as:
- Hormonal changes. Women are more susceptible to having a migraine, and one of the main reasons is due to hormonal changes. According to the Harvard Medical School neurology professor, Dr. Michael Moskowitz it can be said that “Hormonal changes are a big contributor to the higher female incidence. There are lines of evidence that support this from lab, to clinical evidence and a decrease (although not abolished) incidence in post-menopausal females” (Pain Doctor, 2016).
- Emotional Causes. We all have our own share of stress, however, sometimes it can be too much for the body. Depression, anxiety, trauma or shock can also lead to migraines.
- Physical Factors. Feeling tired or fatigue, lack of sleep, body pain or tension around our neck or shoulders, posture, and even hypoglycemia can cause migraines as well.
- Of course, a good diet still counts and excessive alcohol and caffeine intake in our bodies may trigger migraines. Skipping meals and dehydration may also cause us to suffer.
- Intake of sleeping pills, hormone replacement therapy, and contraceptive pills can cause migraines.
- Environment. Our exposure to flickering screen or lights, smoke, noises, and even change in temperature can make the body respond differently and may result in a severe headache.
Other reasons like family history, as far as first-degree relatives, can also affect us in many ways. Studies have shown that 70 to 75 percent of people suffering from migraine mentioned migraine issues are present in their family history.
A lot of factors, within the body or environment can contribute to causing migraines. But there also various ways on how you can prevent it. A few natural techniques, which you should definitely try out, to reduce the occurrences are: heat therapy, massage, acupuncture, meditation or meditative exercises, such as, yoga and tai chi, stretching, and forms of relaxation exercises.
Additionally, following a proper diet will also come a long way, and includes cutting your consumption of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks. When dehydration is a trigger, drink more water! Regular exercise also contributes to reducing chances of suffering from headaches and migraines as our body releases endorphins when we exercise. Endorphins are our natural painkiller, which also reduce stress levels, and helps us sleep well.