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What's the Diff: Migraines vs. Headaches

What's the Diff: Migraines vs. Headaches

Simply and quite unscientifically put, the difference between a migraine and a headache is that the former feels beyond agonizing and a million times worse than the latter. Unfortunately, migraines plague women more than men, due to the hormonal fluctuations that women experience monthly. In fact, many women's migraine episodes are triggered by their periods or by ovulation, like an evil door prize handed out at Aunt Ruby's homecoming.

The difference between migraines and headaches is more than just the severity of the symptoms that accompany a migraine. It's believed that migraines are a central nervous system disorder, whereas a headache is just pain you feel in your head. While migraines also involve head pain, they can also include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, pain behind the eyes, trouble seeing, muscle weakness, and abdominal pain. These symptoms are caused by a brain that is hyperexcitable, which means brain cells are easily irritated and send off unnecessary signals. A headache, on the other hand, doesn't create this type of pattern in the brain.

If you have suffered from one of these miserable episodes, tell your doctor. Once you've experienced a few rounds of migraines, you'll be able to discuss your symptoms with your physician to figure out what's triggering them. Hopefully, this helps lead to the most effective treatment for your situation.

For more information visit the migraine section in the FitSugar Health Guide.


Join The Conversation
Jessica-W Jessica-W 8 years
I've suffered from Migraines for over 20 years. I've taken all kinds of medications, including Imitrex, Topomax, etc. But they never really worked. Here's the great news. I'm currently celebrating my 6 month anniversary of being Migraine Free! Imagine life without migraines. Mine were so severe I would see pink spots, go blind in one eye and pass out from the pain. I found an All Natural Remedy that has changed my life. I'd love to share my story and information to others that suffer from this disease because there is a better way to live. Stop living in the dark and in fear, take control and stop taking prescribed medications. Please come visit me to hear my story. Talk to you soon, Jessica :-) Ph. 206-600-5303
poissondujour poissondujour 8 years
I have horrible migraines - so far no preventative meds have worked and no other medications have fully helped. I miss so much school because of it. I know my triggers, but that hardly does anything. I've recently started getting acupuncture, which has been the only thing that helps. Like magic.
JessicaLE JessicaLE 8 years
While I get auras almost weekly, I have only had one migraine. I was on an estrogen + progesterone birth control pill, was exercising like a fiend and eating about a 900 calorie/day diet (ah high school). After I changed b.c. and my nutritional habits, I have been very lucky to not have any more migraines. But my heart goes out to those who suffer from them.
cravinsugar cravinsugar 8 years
You know, I have only had 2 migraines in my life. I have no idea what set them off, but I had them relatively close together. I just knew exactly what it was once it felt like i had a knife jabbing in my right eye and moving made it worse. I spent that day in bed under the covers, but am glad i don't have the aunt pukes whenever she has a migraine. I do get vertigo which the docs think could be an aura--i get auras all the time, but they are never connected with my actual headaches. odd huh?
ewray4381 ewray4381 8 years
Wow, I would never consider myself "lucky" to have migraines, but I've never had one that lasted days. I do get migraines, but they've never lasted for more than a day. I always get an aura first, and if I can get some OTC migraine medicine in me, usually I can deal with it. If I can't though, I'm down and out. The only way for me to actually get rid of a migraine is to just sleep it off. I guess I'm also lucky that my migraines aren't that frequent. I've never been able to figure out what my trigger is, because they are so far apart they seem completely random. It's a big pain knowing that one could strike at any time and I can't do anything to prevent it.
wambalus wambalus 8 years
I found that I can control my migraines through diet and lifestyle - I used to be on medication but honestly I didn't really feel that the medication helped that much.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i have had some of the worst migraines in my lifetime and i really have empathy for anyone who suffers from them. there was a 4 month period this year that i couldn't get rid of the one that i had and i was on any number of meds from my neurologist to see if there was anything that would work and we FINALLY had luck after months and months. i used to think that there were foods that i had to avoid since my mom got her migraines from food but for me, it's more hormonal or stress related that makes them come on.
julieulie julieulie 8 years
itsme3683 -- are you on any kind of preventative medication for them?! I used to get migraines every 10 days or so, and when I get them I lose my vision, so obviously I can't go to work, and they last 2-3 days, so obviously, I wasn't able to maintain a regular lifestyle with having to miss half of every week out with a migraine. I can't say the preventative medication I am on is any fun, but now I only get migraines every other month, which is a LOT better. You shouldn't have to live with them every week -- that knocks you out for probably a third of week!
kikidawn kikidawn 8 years
I very very fortunately have never had a migraine. My guy got one the other week though for the first time. He was miserable. Poor thing I had no idea what to do for him... and it didn't help that I had a standing date to do something else so I left him in the cool dark bedroom and told him to sleep (and take meds).
itsme3683 itsme3683 8 years
I HATE my migraines!! I inherited them from my dad's side of the family--joy--and I get them at least once a week.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
"Evil door prize" made me giggle. It's so true, migraines are the worst.
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