Here's How To Tell If Your Headache Is Actually A Migraine

If you’re human, chances are you’ve probably experienced a headache or two—or three or four. Whether your headaches are caused by hormones, tension or sinus pressure—they’re all bad news. Between the pounding, pressure and pain, there’s no denying that headaches are just downright miserable. This is especially true when the mother of all headaches strikes. Is it really just a plain old headache, or could it be a migraine?

Headaches vs. Migraines: What’s the difference?

Headaches: Headaches are complicated. You may think that they’re all the same—just pressure and aching. But it’s not quite that simple. There are actually 10 different kinds, with the most common being tension headaches. Each type of headache varies in pain location, intensity, frequency of occurrence and cause. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common types:

·         Tension headaches (dull aching all over your head (forehead, neck, scalp and neck) like you’re wearing a hat that’s too tight)
·         Cluster headaches (severe pain or burning around or behind one eye)
·         Sinus (pain that is focused around your sinuses)
·         Hormone headaches (tension-type headaches that are linked to hormonal fluctuations)
·         Caffeine headaches/Exertion headaches (throbbing on both sides of the head)

Migraines: Let’s start by clearing-up any confusion—migraines aren’t just severe headaches. They’re technically a neurological condition stemming from physiological changes in the brain. Migraines are often the result of both genetics and environmental triggers, including: changes in weather, barometric pressure, diet, sleep and stress—to name a few.

Just like triggers, migraines can have a wide array of symptoms that accompany the typical head pain, including nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, vomiting, sensitivity to light and more. With varying triggers, symptoms and recommended treatments it’s clear that no two migraines are the same. Literally, migraines can vary from one attack to the next. So, how can you tell if you’re actually having one?

Migraine Markers: Watch for these signs  
               
   1. You experience an aura. This may mean that you experience anything from visual disturbances (jagged lines, called fortification spectra, with bright spots or flashes) or temporary, partial vision loss to numbness or tingling sensations.

   2. You experience mood changes. Similar to an aura, you may feel depressed, irritable or excited before experiencing a migraine.

   3. You can’t get sleep. Because migraines can be intensely painful, they may prohibit you from actually getting restful sleep. Of course, this becomes a vicious cycle with sleep loss being a common migraine trigger.

   4. You have sinus troubles. It’s not uncommon for migraines to cause symptoms often associated with sinus headaches. You may notice congestion, nasal drainage, watery eyes or droopy eyelids.

   5. You have some serious cravings. It isn’t just PMS that can cause a hankering for chocolate. Before experiencing a migraine, you may notice that you’re craving something specific.

   6. Your pain is pulsating. While it may be hard to differentiate the types of headache pain, migraines are notorious for causing throbbing and pulsating.

   7. Your neck is stiff. In the early stages of a migraine, it’s common to experience neck pain, stiffness and throbbing.

   8. You have to go #1. Before a migraine settles in, you may experience frequent urination.

   9. You feel nauseous. This is one of the most common migraine-accompanying symptoms. It isn’t clear why nausea and vomiting is so prevalent, but some experts attribute it to feeling dizzy or experiencing vertigo.

   10. Your senses are on overdrive. It isn’t just light that can intensify migraine pain; noise and smells can worsen pain,too.

Your health is on our mind(s).

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to minimizing migraines. So why should the treatment be any different? To help you better understand your unique condition, Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care offers an extensive range of diagnostic services, treatments and resources. With GMG’s knowledgeable and personable experts, your care will always be the top priority. 

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