Open Accessibility Menu

Understanding the Difference Between Migraines and Headaches

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Southwest General
Understanding the Difference Between Migraines and Headaches

Migraines and headaches are common problems that affect millions of people worldwide. Both conditions can cause significant discomfort and interfere with daily life, but they are different. When head pain strikes, knowing the differences between migraines and headaches and when to seek medical attention is important.

Headaches are a common condition that affects nearly everyone at some point. They can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Tension
  • Dehydration
  • Allergies
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep

Typically, headaches are felt as a dull ache on both sides of the head and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications or lifestyle changes.

On the other hand, migraines often cause debilitating head pain that can significantly impact someone's daily life. Migraines are typically felt on one side of the head and are often accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Light sensitivity
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days and can be triggered by various factors, including hormonal changes, stress, diet and weather changes.

The symptoms of migraines and headaches can vary depending on the type and severity of the pain. Migraines often come with a severe headache accompanied by nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances such as flashing lights or blind spots. On the other hand, headaches tend to be milder and more constant, although they also can be felt as sharp and intense pain.

Various factors, including hormonal changes, stress, dehydration, caffeine and changes in weather or altitude, can trigger both migraines and headaches. Keeping a headache diary can help you identify potential headache triggers and anticipate or prevent them in the future.

Treatment and Management

The treatment for migraines and headaches often depends on the severity of the pain and the frequency of the episodes. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be effective for mild headaches, although they should be used sparingly to avoid rebound headaches. For migraines, preventative medications such as beta-blockers or antidepressants may be prescribed to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes.

Lifestyle changes also can be effective in managing and preventing migraines and headaches. Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation can help reduce stress and tension, while staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet can minimize triggers. Identifying and avoiding specific triggers such as alcohol, caffeine or processed foods also can help prevent episodes.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While most headaches and migraines can be managed with over-the-counter medications or lifestyle changes, there are instances where it is crucial to seek medical attention.

Signs of a more serious condition (that should be evaluated by a medical professional) can include:

  • Sudden onset headaches
  • Headaches that are accompanied by symptoms (such as numbness, weakness, confusion or seizures)
  • Headaches that are severe and don't respond to treatment

Migraine and Headache Support

Remember, taking care of your overall health and being aware of your head pain episodes and triggers can make all the difference in managing and preventing migraines and headaches.

Southwest General Medical Group, Inc. (SGMG) includes primary care providers who are committed to providing patients with answers to their medical concerns, including head pain. For more information and to reach out to our team, visit our website at