How a Migraine Differs From a Regular Headache

Millions of people suffer from migraine headaches on a recurring basis. Migraines are different from regular headaches in their cause and symptoms. A regular headache has a traceable, external cause. Examples include illness, stress and loud noises. In contrast, a migraine is thought to be caused by brain activity or chemical fluctuations.

The exact cause of migraine headaches remain somewhat of a mystery. Part of this may be due to the wide range of possible causes of these internal headaches. There is no known cure for migraines. Regular headaches can be cured by removing the source of aggravation.

A regular headache may have warning signs, but typically it starts quickly without any prior symptoms. An individual may not know they have a headache until they notice the dull pain. Migraine headaches differ from this because they can show warning signs 30 to 60 minutes prior to the onset.

Some signs of a migraine headache coming on include flashing lights or visual disturbances. The individual may feel a tingling sensation or numbness on one side of the body. These symptoms are referred to as the aura phase. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of migraine sufferers report having these signs.

The aura phase is thought to be caused by abnormal wave activity within the cortex of brain. At this point, it is too late to try and prevent the migraine. Recently, researchers have begun to study the phase that becomes before the aura, known as the prodrome phase. The signs may be vague and can vary across individuals.

Several hours to several days before a migraine, a person may experience irritability, anxiety or other mood changes. Some report increased thirst and food cravings. Because of the great individuality of the brain, the prodrome phase presents differently for each person. Studies have shown that most migraine sufferers report these symptoms when given a list of things to look for. This indicates that a large number of individuals may experience the prodrome phase.

Symptoms of a migraine are typically reported as more severe than a regular headache. There are a wide range of symptoms, including tunnel vision, nausea, throbbing pain, loss of appetite and sensitivity to light. There is almost always severe pain in the head, which can sometimes be debilitating.

The most common treatment of migraine headaches is over-the-counter pain medication. This is the same for regular headaches. Chronically severe migraines may be treated with prescription drugs. Preventative medications are also available from a doctor. These may reduce the frequency and intensity of the migraine but will not eliminate it completely. Alternative methods of headache and migraine treatment include acupuncture, spinal flexion and therapeutic massage.

Some people find it helpful to lie down and relax. Shutting off the lights and putting a warm washcloth over the eyes may relieve some of the pain. There is little one can do to completely get rid of a migraine. In contrast, regular headaches typically disappear soon after taking medication or removing the cause of the pain.

During the prodrome phase, it may be possible to prevent a migraine if the signs are recognized. A migraine sufferer may be able to ward off the onset by taking medications that are normally taken once the migraine begins. Another possible solution is to remove any known triggers such as caffeine, alcohol or lack of sleep.source of the pain.