I am sure all of us have headaches that can be extremely intense and draining. They are capable of ruining our day and can go on for weeks. If you're feeling this excruciating pain, I know you must be wondering “is this a headache or a migraine?”

Well, don't worry, because I've got you sorted.  Here are some of the major points that differentiate a headache from a migraine.  

How a Migraine Feels Like

The top neurosurgeon of Rawalpindi gets to check a number of patients each day.  Most of them have issues regarding headaches and migraines. The symptoms for both headache and migraine differ a lot. So, .

People who have headaches often feel;

  • Pressure and pain in various frequencies  
  • Pain that is extended to neck and face

People with migraine feel the same symptoms, along with these additional symptoms:

  • Intense lasting pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Neck stiffness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Seeing colored spots or floaters
  • Pain behind one ear or eye
  • Extreme fatigue

The onset of migraine symptoms usually starts a day or even weeks before it occurs. Some people also feel food cravings, mood swings, frequent yawning and stiffness in the neck.

Typically migraines bring more symptoms than a headache. However, sometimes a severe headache might show the same symptoms. In this case, visit your doctor for a clear diagnosis.

Location of Headache vs. Migraine Pain

Migraines and headaches often have different areas where pain is centralized. If you're having a headache it is more likely to feel pain and pressure in the forehead and scalp.  Sometimes even towards the area where the skull and spine connect.

If you're having a migraine it is more likely that you'll feel pain on only one side of the head. You might feel pain for some time on both sides too.  But in migraines the pressure usually builds up at one side.

So, if you clearly identify the pain to be on one side of the head and not across the head. This my friend is Migraine that you're dealing with.

Key Triggers

If you suffer from headaches, you might find these triggers playing a role;

  • Stress: Stress can cause the tightening of muscles in shoulders and neck. This often leads to a tension headache.
  • Diet: Processed food can be triggering a lot of times. Also, some other foods like bananas, cheese, chocolates, some dairy products and even onions in some cases cause severe headaches.
  • Caffeine Withdrawal: If you consume caffeine through tea or coffee on a daily basis. Stopping its consumption abruptly can cause headaches.

This is because caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict; without caffeine, the vessels widen and bulge out with each heartbeat- a chief reason behind a throbbing headache.

In case of migraine, you might find these certain triggers playing an important role.

  • Hormonal Changes: Menstrual cycles  and hormonal changes can cause migraines.  
  • Genetics: Genes play a vital role. People with a family history of migraines are most likely to get them.
  • Environmental: There are hundreds of triggers in a person's environment that can cause migraine. These include weather, food, stress, lack of sleep.

Treatment and Relief

There is no specific cure for headaches and migraines. However, lifestyle changes and medicines do help a lot and in some cases prevent future episodes of pain too.  

Over the counter drugs like Tylenol and ibuprofen can help in mild migraines and occasional headaches. But in case of severe and regular headaches take prescription medicine.  

In addition, making lifestyle changes could help prevent some types of headaches and migraines;

  • Avoiding Trigger Foods
  • Exercising Daily
  • Reduce Stress from life
  • Improving Sleeping Habits
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Yoga, Meditation and developing other relaxation habits

Other Remedies

You can also try some of these home remedies in order to help your headaches;

  • Message your scalp and temples
  • Lie down in dark room
  • Place a cold cloth over your forehead and neck

Bottom Line

Headaches can be very mild and then go up to being severe and debilitating. Identifying a headache as it starts to hit is way better than waiting for it to stop. Distinguishing headaches from migraines can get tricky sometimes, in the case consult the relevant doctor.

Keep a track of time, when it starts and how long it lasts.  This way you can easily find out the type of headache you're having.