Migraine Progression: The Full Timeline of a Migraine Attack


By now, you should have known that migraines are more than your typical headaches. Migraines are a complex neurological disorder that afflicts at least 1 in 6 Americans, according to a study.

It does not only bring a debilitating headache but also causes patients to deal with a series of disabling symptoms. Some of them are visual disturbances, numbness or tingling sensation in the face or extremities, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, and sensitivity to sounds, lights, and smells. 

What else can come during an episode of a migraine? Migraine attacks can unfold in stages. It is fundamental for migraineurs to recognize these phases as well as the possible triggers of the attacks to minimize them in the future.  

However, keep in mind that migraine episodes can differ for every person, and not all patients go through all these migraine phases.

Phase 1 – Prodrome

This serves as the warning sign that an attack may come at any time. It is also known as the “premonitory” or “pre-headache” phase. Symptoms of the prodrome phase can last a few hours to days. This phase brings about the following symptoms:

  • Food cravings
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Sleepiness or fatigue 
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Excessive yawning
  • Neck pain
  • Sound and light sensitivities 
  • Cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or increased need to urinate

Learning these pre-headache symptoms can give patients a chance to either prevent an attack or reduce its potential impact. For example, you can take migraine medications before an attack sets in. 

Phase 2 – Aura

The American Migraine Foundation reported that about one-third of migraineurs experience the aura phase in the progression of their attack. However, the aura does not occur all the time. People who experience an aura may go through these: 

  • Blurry vision
  • Visual disturbances such as seeing lines, spots, sparkles, or waves
  • Temporary vision loss or blind spots
  • Oversensitivity to touch
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations on the face or extremities
  • Changes in hearing or auditory hallucinations
  • Dizziness or vertigo

Like the prodrome phase, a migraine aura can also predict that a migraine attack is just around the corner. Auras can last anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour. 

Phase 3 – Headache

This is the most popular migraine phase and also the most debilitating one. However, the symptoms do not affect the head alone. Other parts and systems of the body may also feel the effects of the headache phase. Patients may experience: 

  • One-sided throbbing or pulsating severe headache
  • Worse headache after any physical activity or exertion
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Confusion
  • Heightened sensitivity to smell, sound, and light
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Jaw and teeth pain
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Vertigo

The headache phase may persist between 4 to 72 hours, which can be unbearable for migraineurs.  Many patients prefer resting in a silent, dark room until the headache subsides. Though less common, it is possible to have a migraine attack without the headache phase. This type of migraine is called a silent migraine

Phase 4 – Postdrome

The postdrome stage is also known as the “migraine hangover.”  It occurs 1 to 2 days after the migraine headache. In this stage, patients experience the aftereffects of the episode. Some of the hallmarks of the postdrome phase are: 

  • Lowered mood levels
  • Lingering sensitivity to light
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Body aches
  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive changes such as a reduced ability to speak, think, understand, and reason

The prodrome stage can be just as debilitating as the headache itself. As many as 80% of migraineurs suffer from some of these symptoms, the American Migraine Foundation said.

Migraines and Upper Cervical Chiropractic

If you live with migraines, you can easily get caught in a cycle of anxiety as you anticipate every time when the next attack might happen. Another cause of concern for you might be the long-term implications of medication use. 

Have you heard about upper cervical chiropractic? If not yet, we urge you to consider this branch of chiropractic. It has been helping thousands of migraineurs in case studies get back to their migraine-free life. 

What Makes Upper Cervical Chiropractic Effective?

Upper cervical chiropractic care concentrates on the most critical yet vulnerable area of the spine – the C1 and C2 vertebrae at the junction of the head and neck. The topmost bones of the upper cervical are crucial for two reasons:

  • They provide structural support and allow the full range of movement of the head
  • They help in the normal flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid, which are essential for neurological functions 

The C1 and C2 vertebrae offer a layer of protection for the brainstem and make possible the movement of the head in any directions. However, its flexibility contributes to its vulnerability to misaligning. 

Misalignment of either the C1 or C2 vertebra compromises the functions mentioned above. The end result is the onset of migraine symptoms. Often, spinal misalignments are the undetected underlying cause of migraines and other neurological conditions.

Your Next Steps

If you are experiencing migraines and have never gone to an upper cervical chiropractor for a spinal assessment, here are your next logical steps.

  1. Click the button below to choose among the upper cervical doctors near your area.
  2. Set an appointment with your chosen chiropractor and see if upper cervical chiropractic is the best approach for your case.

Finding out and correcting problems in your upper cervical spine might be the solution to the lasting relief you’re looking for.

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Areato schedule a consultation today.

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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.