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Migraines and Chronic Headaches

What's the difference between migraines and headaches? 

When you experience pain or pressure in your head it can be difficult to differentiate it between a migraine and a headache. A headache is a persistent pain anywhere in the head or neck. The pain can range from mild to severe and usually is only on one area of the head. A migraine can seem like a more intense headache, but it is considered a neurological disease. People who experience migraines will have severe, throbbing pain which can lead to them becoming inactive for some time. Migraines can be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, vision problems, light and sound sensitivity, and tingling.

Migraines and headaches can happen to anyone, at any age. They can be environmentally induced, a symptom of a different medical condition, or genetic. Migraines often go undiagnosed and many people who suffer from them do not seek out medical care.

Common Triggers

  • Alcohol
  • Weather changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Emotional anxiety or stress
  • Dehydration
  • Hunger
  • Strong smells
  • Strong lights
  • Strong sounds
  • Hormones

Phases of a Migraine

People experience migraine symptoms before their headache starts and they often develop in stages. Not everyone who has migraines goes through all four stages.

  1. Premonitory or warning phase: tiredness, stiff neck, mood changes
  2. Aura: seeing spots, squiggly lines, dizziness, weakness, numbness and/or confusion
  3. Headache or attack: severe, throbbing/pulsating pain with nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity
  4. Postdrome: feeling drained, confused and washed out for up to a day. Sleep can help

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis is usually based on a thorough medical history along with physical and neurological exams. Occasionally, tests like bloodwork, MRI, or lumbar punctures may be recommended.

Migraines and headaches can’t be cured, but symptoms can be managed and possibly improved. The two forms of treatment involve preventative measures and abortive measures. Preventive medications may be prescribed when your headaches are severe and more frequent. Abortive medications are most effective when you use them at the first sign of a migraine and help stop the progression of the migraine phases.  Treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter medicine 
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Natural vitamins, minerals, or herbs
  • Home remedies

Call us today to find out more information about your treatment options, to schedule a consultation or to make an appointment.

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