A Head’s Up on Migraines vs Headaches

We all know what a headache is, and few of us have made it this far in life without experiencing one. They vary from dull to extremely painful in intensity and from seldom and occasional to often and sporadic in frequency.

Migraines, however, are regarded in mainstream medicine as a primary headache disorder. They may be debilitating, wreaking havoc on your business, family and social lives. At their most severe, they may require emergency treatment. Despite its similarity to a headache, and the general assumption that a migraine is a synonym for headache, it may not always precipitate head pain. A headache, however, strikes predominately from the upper neck and above, including the face.

A headache is one of the symptoms of a migraine — one of the most common to be sure— and a migraine headache often occurs on one side of the head.

Once pain from a basic headache is vanquished, we often transition quite quickly into normal routine, but many migraine sufferers tell us that once their headaches abate, they may be exhausted from the toll it has taken, as well as experiencing lingering illness and even confusion and lack of responsiveness to stimuli like conversation and nearby activity.

When suffering from what is known as a hemiplegic migraine (similar to a stroke sequence), you may experience scary symptoms like temporary paralysis, dizziness (vertigo) and difficulty swallowing or speaking.

Warning Signs of Advancing Migraines

The premonitory phase generally includes signals that a migraine is coming, and those warning signs could start a few hours or even days before. Sudden sensitivity to light is common in the premonitory phase, but that sensitivity may also include sound and smells. An inexplicable mood change is also a common precursor of an advancing migraine attack, as are food cravings, sudden neck stiffness and diarrhea or constipation.

Closer to the advent of the migraine itself may be abnormalities in the so-called “aura” phase which may include blurred vision, flashing lights and, of course, auras, unexplained emanations from a person or object, known as the halo effect.

Migraine sufferers may consider their conditions and symptoms rare, but they are far from alone. The Migraine Research Foundation estimates that one in every four households in the United States includes someone experiencing migraines — and that translates into 12 percent of the population and 10 percent of children. Three times as many women (18%) experience migraines as men (6%). In fact, being female is a risk factor for migraines, as are a family history of migraines and sleep and mood disorders. Finally, the most probable migraine sufferers are between the ages of 18 and 44.

Migraines may be triggered by stress and anxiety, for example, and even hunger and sleep deprivation. Of course, once the migraine strikes, all these triggering conditions are exacerbated by the migraine itself. In other words, you can’t eat or sleep, and your stress and anxiety levels will worsen until the migraine abates.

At Oakland Spine & Physical Therapy, our treatments for both migraines and headaches include chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, and sound advice on how to avoid some of your triggers. We treat these painful conditions noninvasively without requiring you to provide more room in your medicine cabinet.