Migraines and Headaches: Learn the Difference

They’re Common But Not Normal

It is common for patients to report that their symptoms started early in life and that they have suffered for years. The typical migraine headache throbs and pulses, and is commonly associated with nausea and changes in vision. Up to 20% of the U.S. population will experience a migraine at some point in their life. Up to two-thirds of those who suffer from migraines are women. The following is a guide to differentiating between a migraine and a headache.

The Four Stages of Migraines and Their Symptoms

Not all patients experience all stages. They are prodrome, aura, migraine and post-drome.

The First Stage: Prodrome

The prodrome stage occurs 1-2 days before a migraine. Some of the symptoms experienced during this stage are:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Increased food cravings
  • Neck tightness and stiffness
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Aura symptoms

The Second Stage: Aura

Most patients do not experience an aura. Auras are neurological visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or wavy, zigzag vision. Sometimes auras can also be touching sensations (sensory), movement (motor) or speech (verbal) disturbances. Your muscles may get weak, or you may feel as though someone is touching you. Each of these symptoms begins gradually and builds up over several minutes up to an hour.

Examples of aura are:

  • Visual disturbances such as flashes of light or bright spots
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
  • Numbness or weakness in the face or one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hearing music or noises
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements

The Third Stage: Migraine Attack

A migraine usually lasts between 4 to 72 hours, and the frequency of attacks varies greatly. Attack symptoms are:

  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Pain that feels throbbing or pulsing
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells and touch
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting

The Fourth Stage: Post-drome

The final phase is post-drome, and occurs after a migraine attack. Patients feel exhausted, washed out and drained. For the following 24 hours, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Moodiness
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

What Causes a Migraine?

Although severe migraines may be caused by many different factors, scientists do not know exactly why migraines occur. It is believed that the pain is associated with blood vessel swelling and irritation to the nerves that surround the brain. However, most experts don’t believe that these are direct causes of migraines. The brain does not have pain receptors, but it does have pain processing centers. It is believed that these centers or networks are hypersensitive or dysfunctional such as with chiari malfunction.

The Good News in Migraine Relief

A recent clinical study, Effect of Atlas Vertebrae Realignment in Subjects with Migraine: An Observational Pilot Study, states that “atlas realignment intervention may be associated with a reduction in migraine frequency and marked improvement in quality of life yielding significant reduction in headache-related disability.” The full journal article is available through BioMed Research International. NUCCA doctors specialize in adjusting the top bone in the neck, also known as atlas. Call us to learn if NUCCA can help you too.

Call our office today at (619) 756-7510 or request an appointment here.

Gentle NUCCA Doctors | Upper Cervical Care Intouch Chiropractic | San Diego, CA (619) 756-7510


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