Headaches & Migraines: An Overview
What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?
There are two main characteristics that spell the difference between headaches and migraines. They are locality and intensity.
Headache intensity is typically of a dull and mild pressure only. Migraine intensity, on the other hand, is much more intense with a throbbing and pulsing sensation on the head.
Headaches are typically felt over the entire head. Migraines are typically localized only on either side of your head.
Now, there are also some other symptoms that are mostly felt by migraine sufferers more than headache patients. These symptoms are:
- Dizziness accompanied by seeing halos
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Visual blind spots or flashing lights
These symptoms are usually exacerbated by exposure to bright lights and loud sounds. And these are also not present in a simple, mild headache.
Can I avoid developing a headache or migraine?
You can reduce the risks of getting a headache or migraine through the following preventative measures.
- Avoid getting too much stressed out as much as you possibly can
- Keep yourself hydrated with water
- Get lots of rest, especially if you’re feeling under-the-weather due to colds or flu
- Moderate your caffeine intake
- Incorporate exercises or additional physical activity into your daily routines
- Have your eyes checked regularly
- Avoid foods that can trigger your headaches such as chocolate, wine, cheeses, or onions
- Use mind-body techniques and manual therapies to relax
- Identify your migraine triggering factors and avoid them as much as possible
- Purchase riboflavin supplements over the counter and take them regularly
- Follow a prescribed migraine prevention course given by your physician
- Try a course of acupuncture. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends 10 sessions covering 5-8 weeks periods of therapy.
What causes headaches and migraines?
Here is an enumeration of common headache causes:
- Suffering from a cold or flu
- Eye problems
- Irregular eating periods or eating too little amounts of food
- Having your period
- Experiencing a hungover
- Taking too many pills for pain relief
Meanwhile, here are the possible causes of migraines. They are grouped into five aspects:
Influenced by the times before, during, and after a woman’s period
- Low blood glucose levels
- Poor sleep quality
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Initial parts of a strenuous exercise routine
- Jet lag
- Shoulder and neck tension
- Delayed, missed, or irregular meal times
- Specific trigger foods including:
- Smoked fishes
- Cured meats
- Pickled herring
- Cheeses such as stilton, cheddar, and camembert
- Citrus fruits
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Combined type of contraceptive pill
- Some variations of sleeping pills
What types of headache and migraine are there?
The most prevalent headache and migraine types are as follows:
- Fever-induced headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Hormone headaches
Your headache and migraine questions, answered
When should I see a doctor about a headache or migraine?
You should immediately see a doctor if you experience the following:
- Recurrent headaches despite treatment
- A headache with sudden worsened symptoms
- You want to vomit, you feel excessively sick, or feel additional pain when seeing excessive light or hearing loud noises
- You get added symptoms like arm and leg numbness alongside your typical headache symptoms
- You’re feeling the headache becoming increasingly concentrated on either the front or sides of your head. This could be a sign that migraine or a cluster headache is developing.
- You experience regular or frequent bouts of migraines
- You get severe symptoms each time you get a migraine
When should I call the emergency about a headache or migraine?
- Sore scalp
- Jaw feels hurt while eating
- Double or blurred vision
- Garbled or slurred speech
- Intense, severe pain
- Weakness or sudden paralysis on one side of the face or arms
- Stiff neck, high-grade fever, seizures, mental confusion, rash, and double vision
How are headaches and migraines typically treated?
Headaches can be treated with a simple over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Migraines have a range of possible treatment options which largely depend on the severity and symptoms that the person presents with. Treatment options include:
- Over-the-counter painkillers to ease migraine pain
- Prescription triptans (another type of painkiller) as added support for migraine pain relief
- Anti-emetics to manage nausea
- Acupuncture course spanning 10 sessions spread over 5-8 weeks
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as a possible migraine management technique approved by NICE. However, the NHS warns that the procedure is not a cure for migraines and works differently for each individual migraine sufferer.