The Difference Between Migraines Versus Tension Headaches
Migraines and tension headaches can cause extreme pain and discomfort that can interfere with daily life. There are, however, key differences between the two conditions, and knowing the differences can help you better manage symptoms. Making dietary changes and taking medications can help minimize the frequency and severity of both migraines or tension headaches.
Is it a Migraine or Tension Headache?
The initial symptoms of migraine headaches can vary by individual, but the pain levels in some can be severe enough to require a hospitalization. There are two types of migraines headaches: with aura and without aura.
Migraine without Aura
Migraines without aura typically begin with pain on one side of the head and can migrate to other regions with painful pulsating and throbbing painful discomfort. As the migraine headache progresses, sensitivity to light and sound can make the pain intensify and make it unbearable to be in public spaces. Moving or physical activity can also make pain worsen, and in some cases, nausea and vomiting ensues as a result of this discomfort.
Migraines with Aura
The symptoms of a migraine with aura can be felt by some as early as two days prior an attack. Patients often report symptoms like constipation, irritability, neck stiffness, unusual food cravings, and frequent yawning in the pre-phase of a migraine with aura. However, one of the key indicators besides painful discomfort around the head and throbbing traveling pain is the ‘aura’, or sensations felt 10 to 30 minutes prior to an attack. Some individuals report feeling less mentally alert and having difficulty concentrating before the triggering of an event. The sensitivity to light associated with migraines with aura can be so severe that it can cause temporary blindness or seeing zigzag or squiggly lines when looking at objects. The combination of these symptoms can temporarily debilitate a person and induce vomiting as a reaction to the visual disturbance experiences.
The most common type of headaches are tension headaches that are triggered by stress, muscle strain, and anxiety. Tension headaches differ versus migraine headaches in that the pain usually starts around the forehead, instead of the temples, and headaches are relatively less painful. The pain associated with tension headaches can also manifest as tenderness around the forehead and scalp that is usually worsened when pressure is applied to the area. One similarity between tension and migraine headaches, however, is the sensitivity to loud noises that can increase the pain levels experienced. While some tensions headaches can be worsened by exposure to light, the visual disturbances experienced by those with migraines with aura are far more severe.
Treatments for Migraines and Tension Headaches
Maxalt Migraine Medication
Preventative measures that are recommended for migraines include making dietary changes such as eliminating alcohol or avoiding caffeinated drinks. Taking tryptamine-based medications such as Imitrex and Maxalt, which constrict blood vessels in the brain and relieve swelling, is recommended for migraines with aura. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and consuming a plant-based diet can also help minimize the severity of migraines.
Treating tension headaches with non-steroidal-inflammatory drugs like over-the-counter medications including Advil or Aleve can help manage pain. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol are other ways minimize the frequency and severity of tension headaches. If you are experiencing chronic tension headaches, medications like antidepressants and anticonvulsants may help prevent the reoccurrence of these events.