What’s the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine?
If you have a headache that’s preventing you from, well, just about everything, we can help. And here’s a look at how you can figure out what’s causing your head pain.
More than 45 million people in the United States suffer from a headache each year, which represents more than 16% of the population. And eight million people seek medical help because of debilitating head pain.
If you’re in the throes of a headache, we’re here to help. At Clear Creek ER, our doors are open 24 hours a day, every day, providing patients in League City, Texas, with quality care for most medical issues, including headaches and migraines.
But not all headaches are created equal, and the type of headache you have dictates, to some extent, the care you receive. Rest assured, our goal is to stop your head pain, and we work quickly to do just that. To get started in the right direction, we first need to figure out what type of headache you’re suffering from.
Here are some key differences to look out for when it comes to differentiating between a headache and a migraine.
Pounding on the door
One of the first things we ask you when you come in is to describe your headache. While head pain may seem like enough of a description, there are telltale signs in how your head pain presents itself that clues us in as to whether we’re dealing with a headache or a migraine.
If you ask any migraine sufferer about their symptoms, the first thing they usually mention is throbbing pain on one side of their head. This is the hallmark of a migraine, and the primary complaint.
There are other markers that vary from one migraine sufferer to the next. For example, migraines sometimes come in stages, including a prodrome stage that serves as a warning of an impending migraine attack. You may feel moody or thirsty, or your neck might be stiff for a couple of hours, or even a full day, before the head pain comes on.
You may also experience what’s called an aura, which is another common characteristic of a migraine. An aura causes visual disturbances, such as zigzag vision, halos around lights, or light flashes. You may also be extremely sensitive to light, preferring to stay in a dark room and wait the migraine out.
If you don’t have an aura, it doesn’t mean that you’re not experiencing a migraine. Some sufferers have migraines without an aura, but still feel the head pain. And speaking of the pain, this, too, varies in terms of severity. Some people have debilitating, throbbing head pain for several days, accompanied by nausea and vomiting, while others may only experience an attack that lasts a few hours.
Either way, migraines can be incredibly painful, and medical intervention is always a good idea, especially if you’re getting them several times a month.
While migraines garner most of the attention because of their severity, the fact is that tension headaches are the most common headaches and account for 1-4% of all emergency room visits. This type of headache feels like a tightness around the front or back of your head and it can even travel down your neck and shoulders.
A tension headache is often called a stress headache — for good reason. Stress is the primary trigger for these headaches, which can last hours or days.
If you wake in the middle of the night with shooting pain behind one or both eyes, and this happens often during certain times, you may have what’s known as cluster headaches, so-named because of their behavior.
Cluster headaches produce intense pain and come in waves that may last weeks or months, then they go away for a while. They don’t always attack at night, but they do usually strike without warning and can be accompanied by tearing in the affected eye, a runny nose, and swelling on your face.
While we’ve just described primary headaches, you may also be suffering from a secondary headache, like the head pain you feel thanks to congested sinuses. The bottom line is that if your headache is interfering with your life, we can help you find relief. Come into Clear Creek ER any time of day or night, 365 days a year.