The Difference Between a Migraine and a Headache


What is the difference between a migraine and a headache? There are many types of headaches and even several different types of migraines. How can you know which condition you are experiencing? We are going to take a closer look at the symptoms of many different headaches and see how they match up to migraines.

While this article can’t diagnose a condition, it can help you to understand what symptoms are associated with each headache type, and it can help you to have a good dialogue with your doctor about your health.

We will conclude our discussion by presenting a natural way to get help for many different types of headaches as well as migraines. Read on to learn more about what is the difference between a migraine and a headache! 

Difference between a Migraine and a Headache: Migraine Types 

Migraines are a neurological condition. Because of this, they come along with many other central nervous system symptoms that you are not going to see with a standard headache. Keep in mind too that a headache is only a symptom about 90% of the time for migraines, so the main sign that causes people to confuse the two is not always in play.

Here are some of the things to look for regarding migraines in general to help you learn the difference between a migraine and a headache. 

Migraine Without Aura 

The primary symptoms that are associated with migraines include headaches, nausea, sensory sensitivities, and neck pain. Of course, there are a dozen other symptoms that you may experience, ranging from vertigo and vomiting to eye pain and stomachaches (which is a particularly common symptom for children who get migraines). 

There are a few ways to identify a migraine headache besides the other symptoms that accompany it. In order to be considered a migraine headache, there must be two of the following four symptoms directly related to the headache:

  1. Moderate to severe pain
  2. Pain that grows worse with exertion
  3. One-sided pain
  4. Pulsing or throbbing pain

So if your headache pulses or throbs and gets worse if you exercise, then it doesn’t matter if the pain isn’t that bad or is on both sides of the head. It is still likely to be a migraine. The same can be true if you get a severe headache on one side of your head that doesn’t throb or grow worse with exertion. 

Other Migraine Types

Migraine with aura occurs for about a quarter of people who have this condition. Aura happens within the hour before the actual attack and has its own symptom set. You can experience visual disturbances, numbness and tingling that radiates toward your extremities, and extreme fatigue. It is also essential to be on the watch for depression that occurs with migraines, especially if you get migraines with aura. 

Chronic migraines occur when a person experiences 15 or more migraine days per month. Some people even get daily migraines. For many who experience migraines this frequently, the condition becomes disabling. 

Difference between a Migraine and a Headache: Headache Types 

Determining the difference between a migraine and a headache is important understand different headache types. The most common type of headache by far is tension headaches. They are known for feeling like you have a tight band wrapped around your head. Neck pain is also common.

These headaches may stem from tension that builds up in the muscles of the neck and shoulders, which is common when stress hormones remain at elevated levels for too long. However, there are many other types of headaches. Here are a few you should know about. 

Rebound Headaches 

This is especially common for people who have a chronic headache condition. When you are experiencing several headaches a week, you may think it is okay to take over the counter pain medicine each time the pain strikes. However, if you look at the label on most headache medicines, you will find that they are not intended for frequent or long-term use. In fact, taking too much headache medicine can cause rebound headaches (which is why they are also called medication overuse headaches). 

Sinus Headaches 

These are headaches that are associated with sinus problems and often with a sinus infection. It is important to note that migraines can sometimes cause nasal congestion, so you need to look at your other symptoms to determine if you may actually be getting migraines. Sinus problems are usually accompanied by a yellow or greenish discharge, while migraine congestion should be clear. This can help you to tell the difference between sinus headaches and migraines, along with the many other symptoms of a migraine. 

Getting Natural Help for Migraines and Headaches 

Many people who have been looking into the difference between a migraine and a headache are really just looking for what is causing their chronic headaches. One thing that may be able to provide you with fast relief, maximum recovery and long-lasting results from migraines or headaches is upper cervical specific chiropractic. Why is this the case? There are a few central nervous system effects that can occur with upper cervical misalignments that may lead to the right conditions for various headache types to occur. For example:

  • Blood flow – The cervical spine facilitates blood flow to the brain. So even a slight misalignment may lead to problems with blood flow.
  • Brainstem function – The C1 (atlas) surrounds and protects the brainstem. However, even a tiny misalignment may put pressure on the brainstem and inhibit proper function. 

These are just a couple of ways a upper neck misalignments may go hand in hand with headaches or migraines. It is no wonder that so many headache types have neck pain as a common symptom. 

If you have been asking for a while what is the difference between a migraine and a headache because you are dealing with chronic headaches or migraines, we encourage you to visit an upper cervical specialist. This may be the key to you getting to the underlying cause of your condition.

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

Find an Upper Cervical Specialist In Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

Featured Articles


Montel Williams
Montel Williams

TV show host Montel Williams describes how specific chiropractic care has helped his body.

NBC's The Doctors

The TV show "The Doctors" showcased Upper Cervical Care.

CBS News/Migraine Relief

CBS News highlighted the alleviation of Migraines and Headaches.

The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.