Suffering from pressure or pain in your head is typically categorized as a headache. It can be difficult to tell whether you are experiencing a typical headache or a migraine. Recognizing the difference between these two conditions either as a traditional headache or a migraine headache can mean quicker relief through better treatments. It can also help prevent future headaches from occurring in the first place.
Let’s take a look at the different types of headaches and their commonly reported symptoms:
- Pain is mild to moderate affecting the front, top, or sides of the head. Pain gradually begins in the middle of the day and may last from 30 minutes to several days. A tension headache varies in intensity throughout the day, but is almost always present
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
- Disturbed concentration
- Mild sensitivity to light or noise
- General muscle aches
- Pain, pressure, and fullness in the cheeks, brow, forehead or bridge of the nose
- Pain intensifies with sudden head movements, bending forward or lying down
- Associated with sinusitis symptoms such as nasal discharge, fatigue, facial swelling and fever
- Extreme pain generally situated in or around one eye, but may radiate to other areas of the face, head, neck and shoulders
- Intense one-sided pain with a burning or piercing sensation
- Excessive tearing, swelling and redness of the eye on the affected side
- Recurring pain that lasts just a short 30-90 minutes, but can occur several times per day during a cluster period
- Moderate to severe pain described as consistent pounding and throbbing that can affect the whole head or shift from one side to the other
- Painful sensitivity to light, noise or odors
- Seeing spots or flashing lights
- Nausea or vomiting upset stomach, abdominal pain
When compared with tension or other headache types, migraine headache pain is usually described as the most excruciating and debilitating. Performing daily tasks is very difficult or even avoided due to extreme pain. Some people may experience a migraine so severe they seek medical care at an emergency room.
Fortunately, most tension headaches will subside with over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Since most headaches are stress-induced, relaxation techniques help lower stress and relieve pain while reducing the risk of future headaches.
Prescription medication is a proven way to treat migraine headaches, but prevention is often the best treatment. Good healthy lifestyle choices can lower the frequency and severity of migraines. Managing pain, positive behavioral measures, as well as medication are the most effective ways to handle migraines.
Get in your comfort zone. The first step to control an onset of a migraine headache is to find a calm and relaxing environment. Turn off or dim the lights to decrease sensitivity. Apply cold or hot compresses to your head and neck to relax tense muscles. Minimize distractions and try to get ample amounts of sound sleep (keep regular sleep hours).
Eat wisely at a consistent time every day without skipping meals. Avoid foods that trigger migraines such as aged cheese, chocolate, too much caffeine or alcohol. Keep tabs on your diet or even start a food journal to keep track of other potential food triggers.
Regular exercise releases certain chemicals that block pain signals to your brain. These chemicals also help alleviate depression and anxiety, which can make migraines worse. Maintain a healthy weight through physical activity and diet to control the risk of chronic headaches increased by obesity. Remember to get advice from your doctor and start slowly. Exercising too vigorously can trigger migraines.
Stress management is essential to regulate your condition. It’s almost impossible to avoid daily stress, but you can keep it under control to help manage your migraines. Try to simplify your life by finding ways to leave some things out rather than looking for more activities or chores. Manage your time wisely throughout daily routines by delegating what you can and dividing up large projects. Take frequent breaks and get away from a tedious chore when possible. Find time to do things you enjoy and spending moments with family and friends.
Living with migraines or chronic headaches is a daily challenge that can seem overwhelming. But making healthy lifestyle changes can help. Find a doctor who believes and understands you. Get support from your friends and loved ones. Believe in yourself and your ability to take control of the pain.