What Is A Migraine?

It's hard to explain to anyone who's never had a migraine just what a migraine is and how severe the pain can be. But a migraine is much more than just a bad headache.

It's prompted by biochemical changes in the brain that cause the arteries in your head to become narrow (constrict) and then widen (dilate). This in turn activates the pain receptors in your brain. The cause of this process is unknown, but doctors do know that several changes may happen in your body before a migraine strikes.

According to leading migraine experts, treating your migraine before symptoms become severe is highly recommended.

What are the symptoms of migraines?

Many migraine sufferers experience what is known as an aura or prodrome before their pain starts. During this time, symptoms seemingly unrelated to a headache may occur. These symptoms include changes in mood; numbness or tingling in the face or hands; having a disturbed sense of smell, taste, touch or hearing; feeling nauseous; seeing shimmering or flashing lights and zigzag lines; even having blind spots.

According to leading migraine experts, treating your migraine before symptoms become severe may help to reduce the severity of the migraine, and is a highly recommended approach.

It can be difficult to differentiate between types of headache, but here are some general guidelines for evaluating which type seems the most like yours. It’s always best to consult with a health care professional for a proper diagnosis.

Migraine headache:

  • Moderate-to-severe pain that is throbbing or pulsing
  • Pain, usually on one side of your head, that may be concentrated around the eye, temple or behind the ear
  • Pain that is aggravated by movement
  • Nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blurred vision, fatigue, dizziness or paleness
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, smell or temperature

Tension headache:

  • Mild to moderate, steady pain
  • Pain felt on front, sides and back of head, possibly spreading to the neck
  • General feeling of tightness or stiffness, perhaps like a very tight band around the head