The Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

Are you wondering if the head pain you feel is a headache or migraine? It’s not always easy to tell the difference between a regular headache and a migraine attack. But knowing what’s causing your head pain is essential to getting effective treatment and pain relief.  

At Boston PainCare, our entire care team is dedicated to helping men and women in Waltham, Concord, and Natick, Massachusetts, find relief from headache and migraine pain. To help you better understand the root cause of your pain, we’ve created this informative article. 

Read on to learn more about the difference between headaches and migraines and what treatment options are available to help!

Headache 101

Almost everyone experiences a headache at least once in their lifetime, but many different types of headaches exist. Generally speaking, headaches are pains in your head that cause aching, throbbing, stabbing sensations, or a feeling of pressure.  

Headache pain ranges from mild to severe, and it usually happens on both sides of your head. Many people feel headaches in the temples, forehead, and back of the neck or head, and they can last minutes to weeks. Many different things can trigger a headache. 

Some common types of headaches include:

Migraines: More than a headache

While migraines are often described as a severe headache, headaches are actually only one symptom of migraines. The severity of pain with a migraine varies between people and can last for a few hours or several days. 

The most distinguishing feature of migraine headaches is that they typically impact only one side of the head, though it’s possible to feel pain on both sides. People describe migraine headaches as an intense, severe, throbbing pain. 

Migraines often make their unwelcome appearance in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, but they can develop at any age. There are four stages of a migraine, but not everyone experiences all four stages. 

Premonitory phase

The premonitory phase, also called the prodrome phase, takes place before the migraine begins. It includes non-painful symptoms that serve as a warning that a migraine is on the way. The symptoms can be food cravings or reactions, neck pain or stiffness, light, smell, or sound sensitivity. Unexplained mood changes, and stomach trouble, like diarrhea or constipation, are also common.

Aura phase

During this phase of a migraine, you might notice sensory disturbances to your sense of sight, touch, or ability to speak. These disturbances can happen before or during the migraine attack and include symptoms such as seeing flashing lights, blind spots, or zig-zag lines. 

You might experience numbness or tingling in the arms and face. You could also experience slurred or jumbled words, difficulty writing, or trouble understanding what others are saying. 

Headache phase

Migraine headaches can range from mild throbbing to extremely severe, requiring medical treatment. During the headache phase, you might find that physical movement and exposure to light, sound, or smell make the pain worse. Although the headache phase is the most troublesome for many people, not everyone with migraine episodes gets a headache.  

Postdrome phase

The final, or postdrome, phase of a migraine persists after the headache phase. During the postdrome period, you probably feel fatigued, confused, or simply unwell. This phase lasts for as little as a few hours or as long as several days.

Treatment options for headaches and migraines

Effective treatment requires an accurate diagnosis because the best treatment method depends on the type of headache or migraine you’re experiencing.

At Boston PainCare, our team of board-certified physicians will evaluate your symptoms and medical history to determine your diagnosis. Once diagnosed, we’ll develop a customized treatment plan for you. 

Our doctors use an integrative approach to pain management to provide optimal relief. 

Treatment options may include one or several of the following:

We also know prevention can be the best medicine. Your doctor will provide education about headache and migraine prevention, helping you live pain-free and reduce your dependence on medications.

How can I learn more about headaches and migraines?

If you’re suffering from frequent headaches and migraine pain, it’s time for professional help.

Our team will listen to your concerns and answer your questions, ensuring you get the treatment that’s right for you. To learn more about headaches and migraines and to find relief from chronic pain, contact the Boston PainCare office nearest you to schedule a consultation!

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