Knowing the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine

Do you suffer from head pain and wonder if it’s a headache or migraine? Telling the difference between a regular headache and a migraine attack can be difficult. But knowing what type of head pain you’re experiencing is key for effective treatment and pain relief.

At Pro Rehab Chiropractic and Rehabilitation, with nine locations across Delaware, our experienced care providers are dedicated to helping men and women in the First State find relief from pain. Read on to better understand the difference between headaches and migraines and the treatment options that can provide relief.

Headaches: What you need to know

Chances are good that at some point in your life you’ve experienced a headache. A headache is an uncomfortable sensation or a feeling of pain in your head that causes aching, throbbing, stabbing sensations, or a feeling of pressure.

Many things can trigger a headache, and headaches are often categorized based on these triggers. Here are some of the most common kinds of headaches: 

Headaches can range from mild to severe. People report feeling headache pain in their temples, forehead, and back of the head. Some people describe the pain as traveling into their necks. Headaches may be brief, lasting only minutes, or they can linger for a week or longer.

Migraines: Not just a bad headache

One of the ways to tell a migraine from a headache is by the location of the pain. With migraine headaches, it’s more common to experience pain on only one side of your head. 

The pain sensation from migraines can be different from that of regular headaches. Most people describe migraine pain as intense, severe, or throbbing — lasting for only a few hours or up to several days. 

Unlike regular headaches that appear at any time, migraines often make a first appearance in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. 

Many people think of migraines simply as severe headaches. But there’s more to migraines than a headache. There are four stages of a migraine, and it’s possible to experience some but not all of the four stages. 

Stage 1: Premonitory phase

The first migraine stage is called the premonitory phase, or prodrome phase. This stage occurs before the migraine headache begins and is marked by non-painful symptoms. These symptoms act like a warning signal that a migraine is on the way. 

Examples of signals from the premonitory phase include having food cravings or reactions to certain foods, stiffness or pain in the neck, sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, inexplicable mood changes, and digestive issues.

Stage 2: Aura phase

During stage two of a migraine, it’s common to experience sensory disturbances that affect your sight, sense of touch, or ability to talk or problem-solve. These symptoms can go into effect just before or during the migraine headache.

Symptoms include sight problems (flashing lights, dark spots, or zig-zag lines), issues with your sense of touch (numbness or tingling in your arms or face), speech and processing problems (slurred or jumbled words, difficulty writing, not understanding others).

Stage 3: Headache phase

Stage three is the migraine headache phase. Migraine headaches can vary in intensity, from mild throbbing to so severe that medical treatment is required. During the headache phase, physical movement and exposure to light, sound, or smell can make the pain worse. The headache phase is usually the most troublesome, but not everyone with a migraine gets a headache. 

Stage 4: Postdrome phase

The final stage of migraine is called the postdrome phase and it occurs after the headache phase ends. During the postdrome phase, it’s common to feel extremely tired, confused, or generally unwell. The length of this phase varies, lasting for a few hours or up to several days.

Treating headaches and migraines

At Pro Rehab, our team of chiropractors evaluates your symptoms and performs a physical exam to accurately diagnose the root cause of your headache pain and develop a customized treatment plan for you. 

Our practice uses a holistic approach to pain management to provide optimal relief that works for the long term. Treatment modalities may include one or several of the following:

Pro Rehab has offices in Wilmington, Newark, Lewes, Camden, and Middletown, Delaware. To learn more about headaches and migraines or find relief from headache pain, contact the office nearest you or book an appointment online now!

Dr. James Sheehan Dr. James Sheehan is an expert in the treatment of neck and back pain.

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