How to Tell the Difference Between a Migraine and a Headache

How to Tell the Difference Between a Migraine and a Headache Chiropractor in Palm Bay, FL

The last thing someone dealing with a headache wants to do is spend time examining each aspect of their pain to determine if they’re suffering from a headache or a migraine. How to tell the difference between a migraine and a headache can be a pain itself! They usually just want to find the nearest renaissance fair so they can place their head in the guillotine. As a chiropractor for migraines, I know, however, that being able to tell the difference can expedite care and provide for faster and longer-lasting relief. Getting to the root cause of a migraine or headache will also inform a chiropractor which strategy will prevent the headache from ever returning. How does a pain-free life sound?

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What is a Headache?

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What is a Migraine?

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Got it?

Headaches come in a kaleidoscopic tapestry of all shapes and sizes.

  • Sinus headaches – a result of an allergic reaction or sinus infection
  • Cluster headaches – particularly painful with severe burning and piercing pain behind one eye or one side of the face
  • Tension headaches – (the most popular of all) a dull, aching, non-throbbing pain that forms a band around the scalp, forehead, and neck. These are usually the result of physical or emotional stress.

There are 150 different types of headaches, these are just the greatest hits.

Migraines are a particularly notorious type of headache, though their rise to fame was far from holy. In addition to intense and severe pain, migraines bring a slew of other symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain behind one eye or ear
  • Pain in the temples
  • Seeing spots or flashing lights
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Temporary vision loss

39 million people in the United States suffer from migraines and are desperately searching for migraine relief. Sometimes migraines are so debilitating people see no other option but to go to the emergency room. That’s how desperate they get. The throbbing pain of a migraine can be so debilitating that it makes performing seemingly normal, rote tasks an absolute chore. 90% of sufferers say they are unable to work or perform normally during a migraine attack. I’m no math whiz, but that’s super close to 100%.

One tell-tale sign of a migraine, that makes them especially unique in the headache community, is that they can be accompanied by an aura.

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No, that’s Aurora.

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That’s still Aurora, but, oddly, a little closer. An “aura” typically serves as a warning 10 to 30 minutes before a migraine attack and just like headaches auras can manifest themselves in a variety of ways.

  • Feeling less alert or having trouble thinking
  • Seeing flashing lights or unusual lines
  • Tingling and numbness in the face or hands
  • Having unusual sensory reactions whether that be smell, taste, sight, or touch

If that wasn’t enough there can be a more extended warning, known as the “prodrome” phase, that occurs one or two days before the onset of the migraine. These symptoms are a bit more subtle and look like :

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Frequent yawning
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Unusual food cravings

Though based on what I’m hearing from my patients, that seems like just a normal day in the life of a human being in 2023.

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Am I wrong?

While headaches are usually caused by stress, subluxations, postural distortions, and muscle tension, migraines can be triggered by:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hunger or dehydration
  • Foods and additives
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Medication overuse
  • Smells
  • Lights and sounds
  • Weather
  • Hormones
  • Physical activity

…so life, they’re triggered by being alive. These triggers usually take advantage of a nervous system that is experiencing interference due to spinal misalignment.

When treating headaches most doctors will recommend over-the-counter remedies, but that is just an invitation for trouble. OTC meds only address the symptom: pain. Pain, however, is a warning that the body sends out letting us know that something is wrong. Pain is not the problem, pain is the canary in the mine. The problem lies deeper either with our spinal health, our stress levels, lifestyle, muscle imbalances, or breakdown of our nervous system.

If the goal is to have a life free of headaches, which sounds like a laudable goal to me, the only way to achieve that is by addressing the underlying issue. No amount of medication can fix a structural problem. There’s also the threat of becoming dangerously dependent on painkillers for relief as opposed to using the natural healing power of our bodies.

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The best medicine for migraine relief is prevention. Making dietary changes and reducing stress levels go a long way to preparing our body to handle any attack, not just from a migraine. Obviously, I recommend adding chiropractic care to any wellness or healthcare routine. Chiropractic care is designed to remove nerve interference that causes the body to operate at suboptimal levels. Nerve interference diminishes not only our immunity but also our body’s ability to heal itself. Much of the pain and dysfunction that we experience is a result of our nerves not being able to send the proper messages between our brain and our body.

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By not maintaining our spinal health we jeopardize our ability to function properly. We can’t always feel or see issues, that’s why having a chiropractor take regular inventory of our spine goes a long way to preventing, not just headaches and migraines but, inflammation that can lead to much more serious diseases. Call our office or schedule a time to meet with one of our incredible doctors. We can help figure out the underlying problem and correct it so that migraines are a part of your past and not your future.

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