Headache vs Migraine
June 23, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

Headache vs Migraine

Whenever you feel pain or immense pressure in your head, you call it a “headache.” But have you ever wondered if it is a migraine? How do you tell the two apart? In this article, we will address three questions to help you figure out the difference between a headache and a migraine, followed by the treatment and prevention of each. The three defining questions are:

1.    Where is the pain?

2.    What are the symptoms?

3.    What are the potential causes of pain?

Where is the pain?

Migraines and headaches target different areas of your head. In the case of headaches, the pain or pressure spreads all across your head. It extends to the forehead, scalp, and the back of your head, where the spine meets your skull.

With migraines, the pain is centralized. People typically feel pain on one side of the head. But sometimes, they feel it on both sides. However, the pain still dominates one side of the two sides of your head.

The location of pain alone is not enough to distinguish between the two, which is why we consider the duration and severity of pain in the next section.

What are the symptoms?

Headaches are less severe in comparison to migraines and can last for about 30 minutes to 7 days. Their symptoms include:

      Tight pressure and pain of variable frequencies and intensities

      Pain extending to the neck or face

      Sore temples

      Tightness of the neck and shoulder muscles

People with migraines experience throbbing pain that persists from 4 to 72 hours. Other symptoms of migraines are:



      Tingling in the arm or face before the onset of head pain

      Persistent pain

      Pain behind one ear or eye, or in the temples

      Neck stiffness

      Increased sensitivity to light

      Seeing wavy lines, spots, or flashing lights

      Temporary loss of vision

      Sensitivity to sounds and smells


      Extreme fatigue

What are the potential causes of pain?

Your headache can stem from:




      Muscle strain


      Sinus infection: it carries symptoms such as fever, stuffy nose, and facial pressure.

      Chiari malformation: a birth defect characterized by a small skull which is pushing the brain downwards

      Subarachnoid hemorrhage


The culprit behind migraines is still unknown. However, the following factors play some role in it.

      Gender: women are more likely to experience migraines.

      Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause.

      Allergies: They cause inflammation of the blood vessels, which is a marker of migraines.

      Family history and genetics

      Environmental triggers: For example, shifts in weather, stress, and lack of sleep.

      Use of medications like contraceptives


Treatment & Prevention of Headaches

Taking the following over-the-counter medications will subside the pain associated with your headache:




You can prevent headaches by reducing stress in your life. Consider the following measures:

      Warm showers


      Yoga and meditation

      Neck stretching

      Relaxation exercises

Treatment & Prevention of Migraines

For a quick fix, your doctor will prescribe you one or more of the following class of drugs:

      Phenothiazines like promethazine (Phenergan).

      Antipsychotics such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), and prochlorperazine (Compazine).

      Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, naproxen sodium, or ibuprofen.

      Analgesics like acetaminophen.

      Selective serotonin receptor agonists such as almotriptan (Axert), rizatriptan (Maxalt), or sumatriptan (Alsuma, Imitrex, and Zecuity)

Note: Do not take these medicines for more than ten days a month. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist first. Book an online appointment with Shifa4U for prescriptions and medications.

For the prevention of migraines, you’d have to keep the following things in check:

      Your diet: avoid alcohol and caffeine.

      Your lifestyle: get an eight-hour sleep from 10 pm to 6 am.

      Take your prescription medications like antidepressants or antiepileptic medications.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.