differentiating-migraines-from-headachesHeadaches are a common occurrence in life, but oftentimes, people mistake headaches for migraines and vice versa. Some may mistake a bad headache for a migraine, while some think their migraine is just a bad headache. What really is the difference between the two? Before going to a migraine chiropractor near Blue Ash, OH to seek help, it is important to learn more about migraines and headaches, as well as what you can do to relieve them.

What Are Headaches?

Headaches are varying levels of uncomfortable pain or pressure that you usually feel on the entire head or both sides of the head. Specifically, pain in your temples, forehead, or the back of your head or neck. Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches, usually due to stress and anxiety, as well as muscle strain. There are other types of headaches. You can identify them using these descriptions.

  • Sinus headaches

These types of headaches occur alongside sinus infections and are often mistaken for migraines. You will know you have a sinus headache if it’s accompanied by a stuffy nose, congestion, cough, and/or facial pressure. 

  • Cluster headaches

These are an extremely painful type of headaches that happen on one side of the head in clusters. The pain comes and goes and has headache-free periods in between. It may also come with a runny nose, teary eyes, or droopy eyelids on the side affected by the pain. 

  • Thunderclap headaches

These are severe headaches that come and go in under 60 seconds. It may indicate hemorrhaging in the brain, particularly a subarachnoid hemorrhage. It can also indicate a stroke, aneurysm, or other injuries. If you tend to experience these headaches, seek medical help. 

  • Chiari headaches

These are headaches that usually occur in the back of the head. It stems from Chiari malformation – a birth defect that pushes parts of the skull against the brain. 

What Are Migraines?

Contrary to popular belief, migraines are not headaches. A migraine is a neurological condition, and head pain is only one of its symptoms. Other common symptoms of migraines include the following:

  • Pain in the temples (often only on one side)
  • Pain behind one eye or ear
  • Seeing flashing lights or spots
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Temporary vision loss

How Do Migraines Differ from Headaches?

The difference between headaches and migraines is that the pain from a migraine ranges from moderate to severe. The pain can be so unbearable that you may feel the need to rush to the emergency room. A migraine is usually felt on only one side of the head. It is a throbbing or pounding pain that impairs your routine tasks. Staying in a dark, cool room and waiting until the pain subsides is usually how people deal with them.

Migraines can come with or without an aura. Auras serve as a warning sign about an hour before migraine pain hits. It manifests through visual disturbances such as seeing flashes of light, wavy, or zigzag lines, or you may feel numb or a tingling sensation on one side of your body. It can affect your senses and ability to process thought.

People with migraines can also have a prodrome phase, which comes a day or two before the migraine starts. Here are a few examples of the subtle signs of an upcoming migraine:

  • Unusual cravings
  • A stiff neck
  • Excessive yawning
  • Constipation
  • Feeling depressed or irritable

What Are the Common Migraine Triggers?

When you experience migraines, you may notice that certain substances or activities can kick start your migraine attack. Some common triggers for migraines are the following:

  • Bright, flashing lights
  • Loud noises
  • Weather changes
  • Physical exertion
  • Alcohol
  • Food such as aged cheeses, chocolate, soy sauce, MSG, aspartame, processed meats
  • Lack of sleep
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Hormone fluctuation
  • Menopause
  • Irregular eating patterns
  • Anxiety and stress

What Causes Migraines and Headaches?

It is said that tension headaches are caused by muscle strain or stress in the neck or its surrounding area. However, researchers are looking at more factors when it comes to the cause of tension headaches.

On the other hand, a migraine is said to be caused by changes in the blood flow of the brain, which causes changes in its blood vessels as well. Certain chemical reactions that happen in those vessels can cause it to be irritated and swell, which can explain the pounding characteristic of migraine pain.

What Do Migraines and Headaches Have in Common?

Despite the difference between migraines and headaches, there is an all-in-one solution for both of them – upper cervical chiropractic care. It helps both headache and migraine patients by adjusting the C1 and C2 bones of the neck. These spinal bones are at risk of misaligning due to their shape and mobility. When they misalign, pressure is put on the brainstem which causes the release of faulty signals. This causes the symptoms of tension headaches and migraines.

There is a case study of a 75-year-old woman who suffered from chronic migraines since her childhood. Pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications did not help in easing her symptoms. As an attempt to relieve herself from the pain, she sought the help of an upper cervical chiropractor. After 5 months of treatment, her migraine pain improved from an 8 out of 10 to a 3 out of 10 on the pain scale. It also decreased the frequency and duration of her migraine attacks. 

If you also want relief from your condition, you may schedule an appointment with us here at Cincinnati Upper Cervical and Family Chiropractic by calling 513-891-7746 or filling out our contact form.