Migraines vs. Tension Headaches - What's the Difference?

The difference between Migraine and Tension Headache

Headaches can be incredibly painful, and oftentimes it is difficult to pinpoint its exact cause. While both are aggravating, migraines and tension headaches have different presentations. Certainly, knowing the differences between the two may help you avoid your next episode.

Migraine vs. Tension Headache


  • Severe pain, usually described as “throbbing”
  • Usually felt on one side of the head
  • May be sensitive to light, sound
  • Nausea
  • See spots or flashing lights prior to an episode
  • Triggers include: low blood sugar (skipping meals), lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, strong smells, and stress

Tension Headache

  • Mild to moderate pain
  • Typically felt on both sides of the head – temples, forehead, and/or base of skull
  • Achy pain
  • Triggers include: lack of sleep, poor posture, stress, eyestrain


How Are My Migraine Headaches Related to My Neck?

Your spine helps to protect your spinal cord, while your spinal cord carries signals to and from your brain. When the top bone in your neck (atlas) is misaligned, this can create pressure within your spinal cord. This can distort messages going to and from your brain. As a result, it can lead to facial pain, muscle spasms, and other migraine symptoms.

Upper cervical chiropractic aims to detect and reduce atlas misalignments. It employs gentle chiropractic adjustment without using force. Through realigning the spine, the pressure in the spinal cord is reduced. Therefore, migraine symptoms become fewer and less severe.

Verderame et al. reported a case of a 75-year-old woman with chronic migraine headaches since she was a teenager. She initially utilized pain medication and anti-inflammatories to manage her symptoms and only saw a slight reduction in her headache severity. Due to atlas corrections over the course of 5 months, her migraine severity decreased from 8/10 initially to a 3/10. Her medical doctor stated that her migraine duration and frequency also decreased.

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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.