Nearly everyone has a headache at some point in their lives. However, a migraine is not classified the same as other headaches, for several reasons. The American Migraine Foundation notes that “migraine is a neurological disease and there are a number of different subtypes of migraine.”
If you have a migraine, you may have trouble explaining the difference in your condition and the type of headaches most people have to your friends, family, or coworkers. Another big difference between a migraine and other types of headache is that people with a migraine often have triggers.
If certain foods, smells, or other identifiable things cause your headaches, you may be experiencing a migraine. Many people use a headache diary to track their food and beverage intake and activities in order to learn if there’s a pattern associated with when they have headaches. Frequent migraine triggers include:
- Hormonal changes
- Aged cheeses, processed foods, or salty foods
- Skipping meals
- Certain food additives, such as aspartame, monosodium glutamate, and others
- Physical exertion
- Strong, chemical smells
There are many other potential triggers, and the staff at Family Acupuncture and Wellness is happy to help you set up a headache diary and suggest how you can go about identifying your triggers.
The four phases of migraine
Migraine has four distinct phases: prodrome, aura, the attack, and postdrome. Other types of headaches generally don’t have similar phases.
If you find that you have certain symptoms a day or two before you have a migraine, you’re familiar with the phase called prodrome. You may feel:
- Mood swings
- Specific food cravings
- Stiffness in your neck
- Unusual thirst
- More frequent yawning
When you hear people talk about an aura in relation to migraine, they are talking about the sensations you feel before a migraine attack. About 25% of people who have migraines experience aura. A migraine with an aura is called a complicated migraine; one without is called a common migraine.
The sensations associated with aura vary and are different for different people. In most cases, the sensory changes begin either just before migraine pain or during it, and last from 10 to 30 minutes. Some of them include:
- Seeing black dots or zigzags of light
- A tingling or numbness on one side of your body
- Slurred speech
- Changes in what you smell, taste, or feel
- Mental fogginess
If the head pain you feel is pulsing or throbbing, and mostly on one side of your head, you’re most likely experiencing a migraine.
Pain that is more like a mild, dull, pressure and you feel it throughout your head, you’re probably experiencing a different kind of headache. There are numerous types: cluster, tension, sinus, and others.
Accompanying symptoms during the attack
One of the biggest differences between migraine and other headaches is that a migraine is usually accompanied by symptoms in addition to pain in your head. Exactly what those symptoms are depends on the particular subtype of migraine you have. Some common symptoms include:
- Pain on one side of your head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Flashing lights or spots
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to sound
- Temporary loss of vision
If you have pain in your head along with other symptoms, you’re likely experiencing a migraine rather than another type of headache.
After a migraine, you may experience a range of sensations. You may feel exhausted and drained, or you may feel a sense of elation. The last phase of migraine can last about 24 hours, and during that time you may feel:
- Sensitive to bright lights or loud sounds
If you have migraines, book an appointment at Family Acupuncture and Wellness. You do have treatment options, and our staff will develop a treatment plan designed specifically to meet your individual needs.
Scheduling online or by phone is quick and easy, and you can begin learning more about the treatment options that may work for you.