Here's How To Tell A Migraine From A Headache & What You Can Do To Ease Symptoms
Anyone who has suffered from a migraine knows how debilitating it can be, especially when compared to a typical headache.
From lightheadedness to nausea and vomiting, to sensitivity to light and sound, the symptoms of a migraine are extremely frustrating and can last anywhere from hours to days.
That's why it's important to not only get the proper diagnosis and help from a doctor to treat migraines but also find ways to ease symptoms when they do happen.
Here's what you need to know about migraines.
What's the difference between a migraine and a headache?
When some people think of a migraine, they may assume it's just a really bad headache.
However, a migraine is much more than that. Health professionals have classified numerous different types of headache disorders and symptoms can vary depending on which one a person has, and migraines is just one of those disorders.
Dr. Stewart Tepper, a migraine expert at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, says a migraine is defined as a headache that lasts from four to 72 hours.
Cleveland Clinic says a migraine is a common neurological illness that has various symptoms such as throbbing or pulsing on one side of the head, and sensitivity to light, sound and smell.
"[The migraine] can be episodic meaning less than 15 headache days per month, or chronic meaning 15 or more headache days per month," Tepper said.
"As the number of headache days goes up, the burden of impact on people's lives also escalates so a migraine is a lot more than a simple headache."
How can you ease the symptoms of a migraine?
There is no cure for migraines, so many people who suffer from them will turn to certain medications or other remedies to help ease symptoms of a migraine when it comes on.
"For people that have infrequent episodes, regular lifestyle interventions can be helpful. That is regular sleep and wake regular relaxation, regular exercise," Tepper told Narcity.
Bright lights and sounds can agitate a person with a migraine, so the Mayo Clinic recommends finding a "calm environment" like a dark and quiet room to ease the symptoms.
Getting sleep and applying a hot or cold compress to the head and neck during a migraine can also help.
While too much caffeine can affect migraines, the clinic says in small doses it can actually help relieve one "in the early stages."
There are mixed reviews on whether acupuncture can relieve migraines, but the American Migraine Foundation says some people have found it to work for them.
Aside from non-medication ways of easing symptoms, there are meds that can help during a migraine like Advil, Motrin and various triptans.
How can you prevent migraines?
Knowing and avoiding your triggers is a big one when it comes to preventing migraines. For some people that could be certain foods like cheese or chocolate or drinks like red wine. Eating regularly and keeping a food schedule is also recommended as skipping meals can be a trigger for some people.
In its list of migraine prevention strategies, Healthline says dehydration is also a trigger for migraines so drinking a lot of water throughout the day is key.
Taking certain supplements such as magnesium, coenzyme Q10 and Vitamin B2 are also used for migraine prevention, as suggested by Migraine Canada.
According to Health Link BC, getting a good night's rest and ensuring you're going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday can also be beneficial.
Anyone who suffers from migraines is also recommended to manage their stress by finding ways to relax like taking a bath, getting a massage or meditating.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.