Migraine Vs. Headache: What Are the Differences?


If you are looking for migraine and headache differences, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to break down the various symptoms of migraines and headaches. One thing you will likely notice is that migraine symptoms can be many and varied. Then we will consider some natural remedies for migraines, one of which is bringing a great deal of hope to long-time migraineurs.

What Is the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine?

The primary difference is that headaches are characterized primarily by head pain while migraines are a neurological condition that presents with a host of symptoms depending on the type of migraines a person gets. With that in mind, let's break down these two conditions separately.

Symptoms and Types of Headaches

The most common type of headache is a tension headache. This primarily consists of a mild to moderate ache the surrounds the entire head. As the name of the headache reveals, these headaches are related to tension in the neck and shoulders, and they are often triggered by stress.

There are, however, many other types of headaches called secondary headaches. These are headaches that have another medical condition as the underlying cause. Here are several examples:

  • Rebound headaches – These are headaches that are caused by headache medications. If you thought you might have read that wrong, you didn’t. The fact is that most over-the-counter headache medications are not meant to be taken long-term or multiple times per week. Taking these drugs too often can result in rebound headaches, also called medication overuse headaches.
  • Dental headaches – If your headaches are accompanied by toothaches or jaw pain, the genesis could be in the jaw or in the habit of bruxism (grinding of the teeth).
  • If your headaches are incredibly painful, short lasting, and frequently recurring, you might be dealing with cluster headaches. This is one of the few headache types that are more common for men than women.
  • Sinus headaches – If your headaches only occur when you have a stuffy nose and pain above and below your eyes, your sinuses may be the culprit. Just be sure not to self-diagnose. Migraines can cause congestion too.

Another thing to consider about headaches is that they can vary in severity and duration. A headache that is severe and lasts all day isn’t necessarily a migraine. And don’t dismiss a moderate headache that only lasts a few hours as not being a migraine. Let’s take a closer look at migraine symptoms.

The Many and Varied Migraine Symptoms

Remember that migraines are a neurological condition, so any headache associated with a migraine is a secondary headache (as in the case of other headaches noted above). Plus, not all migraines have headache as a symptom (though about 85-90% do according to research). What are the primary symptoms of a migraine?

  • Pulsing or throbbing pain – The headache associated with migraine isn’t an ache or a stabbing pain. It is a pulsing or throbbing sensation that is generally moderate to severe.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Visual symptoms – Seeing spots, flashing lights, or even zig-zag lines are common. Blurred or double vision may also occur. Many visual symptoms occur 20-30 minutes before the migraine begins as a part of something called aura.
  • Sensory sensitivity (lights, sounds, and smells)
  • Neck pain – This is actually one of the most common symptoms with some research showing 75% of patients experiencing neck pain either before or during an attack.

Other symptoms can include temporary vision loss in one eye, vertigo, irritability, mood swings, constipation, food cravings, and more.

If you are suffering from migraines, how can you find natural relief? Let’s take a look at some of the natural remedies people have tried with varying degrees of success. We’ll conclude with a specialized form of chiropractic that has been helping many people break free from this debilitating condition.

Natural Remedies for Migraines

People will try just about anything to break away from migraines. Here are a few drug-free options:

  • Dietary changes – While food and drink are actually quite low on the list of common migraine triggers, this is one of the more popular options. Dietary changes may include eliminating nitrate containing foods (i.e., cured meats), aged cheeses, alcohol, processed foods, and anything containing MSG (monosodium glutamate). Regulating caffeine intake can also be important (too much or too little can be triggers).
  • Essential oils – Whether diffused as aromatherapy or applied directly to the skin, many try to find relief by using oils that relax a person (i.e., lavender). The idea is that many migraines seem to be triggered by stress.
  • Exercise – While exertion can make a migraine worse during an attack, daily exercise may reduce the frequency of migraines. It can also increase the body’s pain threshold, making episodes easier to deal with.
  • A regular sleep schedule – Lack of sleep can trigger migraines. A regular sleep schedule may reduce how often episodes occur.
  • Not skipping meals – A sudden drop in blood sugar may trigger a migraine so be sure not to skip meals during the day.
  • Upper cervical chiropractic – This is a specialized form of chiropractic that focuses on administering precise and gentle adjustments of the atlas (the top bone in the spine). Since the onset of migraines often begins after a head or neck trauma, it makes sense to look at this area of the body to get to the source of migraines naturally.

To learn more about upper cervical chiropractic and the benefits it has provided for many migraine patients, contact a practitioner near you to schedule a no-obligation consultation. You may be a gentle adjustment away from fewer migraines and better overall health.

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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.