Migraine vs Headache: What’s The Difference?

Throbbing, insufferable pain in your head and eyes can be indications of short-term tiredness and sleeplessness which may recover on its own over time. However, if this pain occurs for a long period with sudden and fierce sensations, accompanied by other problems like nausea, blurry vision, or extreme fatigue – it could be something more serious.

Such a condition may hint at the occurrence of migraine which is a serious neurological disease leading to severe attacks of headaches, usually on one side of the head. When this illness is left untreated (or undertreated), it not only disrupts the normal flow of life but also causes other complications such as depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, nausea/vomiting, ulcer, stomach problems, epilepsy, etc.  

It’s always better to consult a migraine specialist in Austin to determine whether you have a less serious headache problem or a migraine. Nonetheless, you can familiarize yourself with the key differences between migraine and the usual head pain to get a better understanding of your condition. 


  • Headaches 

Headaches cause unbearable pressure and painful sensations, mostly on both sides of the head. They can be mild or severe, depending on their cause. They usually affect the forehead, temples, and the back of the neck. Headaches usually last between 30 minutes and a few hours but may occur regularly. They can be broken down into three major types:

  • Cluster headache – It is a subtype of migraine which is tremendously painful and recurrent on one side of the head. The word “clusters” defines the chronic cycle in which it occurs daily (usually at the same time) and continues for several months. The needle-like pain perceptions are usually felt behind/above the eye or at the temple, often due to dilation in the blood vessels of the brain with the release of serotonin and histamines. Though agonizing, this pain is short-lived and can be triggered by physical exertion, bright lights, or altitude.
  • Sinus headache – This type of headache simultaneously develops with a sinus infection and produces classic symptoms of sinusitis like fever, stuffy nose, cough, congestion, and facial pressure. The pain in the head is often a result of swelling in the sinus passages which also causes terrible aches behind the cheeks, nose, and eyes, especially after waking up in the morning. In this condition, the mucus discharge is thick and yellow but if it is clear and runny, it could be a migraine.
  • Tension headache – This pain will affect both sides of the head, often starting at the back and moving forward. It is the most common type of chronic headache and leads to eye strain, stress, and hunger. It can be triggered by emotional, mental, or physical imbalances in the body. Tension headaches don’t require rigorous treatment and may go away on their own once the root cause of stress is gone.  
  • Migraine

Migraine generally attacks one side of the head. Nevertheless, it’s possible to experience pulsating migraine headaches on both sides of the head that seriously interfere with one’s daily routine and are followed by some other severe symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Pain behind one eye or ear
  • Seeing spots and flashing lights
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Vomiting

Migraines have 4 stages of progression, though all of these may not be experienced by every patient.

  1. Prodrome Stage – This is the initial phase of migraine with subtle symptoms such as increased frequency of urination, stiffness in the neck, mood swings, food cravings, etc.
  2. Aura Stage – It may occur before or during a migraine, accompanied by symptoms that usually affect vision, such as seeing different shapes or bright spots/flashes, having a blurring vision, weakness & numbness in one side of the body, and so forth.
  3. Attack Stage – This is the actual migraine episode that causes extremely agonizing symptoms like throbbing pain, sensitivity to sensory stimulations, nausea, vomiting, etc. 
  4. Postdrome Stage – This is the final stage of the headache cycle, with feelings of exhaustion and confusion along with periodic episodes of pain. 

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Treatment Options for Migraine at Advanced Pain Care

Non-surgical Treatment:

Migraine headaches, ranging from mild to severe, can be successfully treated to help the patients live a normal and pain-free life. The board-certified neurologists and Migraine specialists, TX offer migraine treatment with both operative & non-operative options. Some of the commonly recommended medications include:

  1. Pain relievers (like acetaminophen, fenoprofen, etc.) 
  2. Over-the-counter drugs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen)
  3. Antidepressants
  4. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) antagonists 
  5. Anti-nausea medicines, like promethazine. 

Along with these medicines, physicians may also work to improve the patient’s lifestyle with specific exercises, therapies, and dietary changes (like including certain nutrients in the diet, controlling the consumption of salt and processed food items, etc.). 

Surgical Treatment:

When the medicines and physical therapies fail to offer any relief from headaches, a specialist may consider surgical intervention as a long-term treatment. These are generally recommended for treating chronic migraine headaches by relieving the pressure on the occipital nerves and/or trigeminal nerves. Some common types of surgery by pain doctors in cedar park are:

  1. Nerve stimulation devices
  2. Nerve decompression
  1. Nerve blocks
  2. Neurectomy
  3. Endoscopic surgery, in case of sinus headaches

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Often, these surgeries are minimally-invasive and may (or may not) produce side effects like swelling, bruising, and numbness in the affected area. The chances of bleeding and infections are very rare as such procedures are performed under the supervision of a multidisciplinary team of specialists such as Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Rheumatologists, and/or Pain Management doctors. 

Now that you know the primary difference between headaches and migraines, you must immediately consult a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis of your situation.

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