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Migraine vs. Headache: Differences & Treatments

Have you ever asked someone if they have a headache, and they said, “No, it’s a migraine”? 

You both are correct.

A migraine is a specific type of headache. Migraine headaches have unique migraine symptoms though. They’re also a leading cause of workplace disability.

Migraines and other types of headache pain require unique treatments, too.

Below, I’ll discuss the differences between migraines and all other headache types — and how to effectively treat both.

Headaches: Types & Causes

There are several types of headaches other than migraine headaches. Let me briefly run through the most important types.

There are more types of headaches less common than the ones I just mentioned, such as caffeine headaches. Read in depth about all the headache types here.

Migraine: Symptoms & Triggers

Migraine sufferers often claim their migraine pain is worse than a normal headache. They’re right; the symptoms can be worse.

How do you know you have a migraine? The symptoms of migraine headaches can be easy to spot, whether people experience a mild or severe migraine attack:

Unfortunately, there are also prodrome symptoms, which means symptoms that occur in the day or two leading up to a migraine attack:

What is migraine with aura? Migraine headaches can present with or without aura, which is a set of visual disturbances.

Symptoms of aura may appear thirty minutes before migraine head pain starts. They include:

What can trigger migraines? Common migraine triggers include:

How can you tell the difference between a headache and migraine?

The differences between migraines and other headaches can be subtle. Sometimes, it’s more obvious.

Migraines are typically more painful and debilitating. 

Migraine headaches usually last for between four and 72 hours, whereas tension headaches last between 30 minutes and one week, if left untreated.

The most common headache — tension headache — triggers pressure around both your temples and forehead. But if the pain is beyond moderate, it’s probably a migraine.

Can a headache turn into a migraine? For an unfortunate few, tension headaches can trigger migraines. This is likely due to the stress of a headache causing a migraine to develop. Although we always encourage patients to treat underlying causes of headaches, taking a pain reliever can stop the tension headache before it leads to a more painful migraine.

Effective Treatments for Headache + Migraine

We compiled a list of easy treatment options for getting rid of your headache symptoms or chronic migraines. It’s wise to discuss some of these lifestyle changes with your doctor or neurologist.

Chiropractic care is a common and effective treatment for headaches and can relieve migraine pain. There’s a reason we at Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic believe in the power of spinal alignment — we’ve seen it work hundreds of times.

If you live in the greater Denver area, click here to request an appointment with us. We reserve Fridays for out-of-town patients.

A healthy diet is key to preventing migraines. Avoid food additives. If you are prone to headaches, try cutting out potential migraine triggers like wheat and dairy.

Supplementing riboflavin (vitamin B2) or magnesium has shown promise in preventing migraines.

Good hydration may prevent headaches as well.

A regular sleep schedule is key. Not only does a good night’s sleep reduce stress, a sleep routine can decrease potential migraine triggers.

Excessive caffeine consumption may lead to headaches. But caffeine withdrawal is a more common cause of headaches.

Relaxation techniques can reduce stress: meditation, yoga, going outside. Stress is a trigger for both tension headaches and migraines.

If you’re looking for temporary pain relief, there are a few options — both over-the-counter medicines and all-natural remedies. Keep in mind, the pharmaceuticals in this list come with some potentially nasty side effects, particularly when used in excess.

In Summary

Sources

  1. Harris, S. P. (2005). Chiropractic management of a patient with migraine headache. Journal of chiropractic medicine, 4(1), 25. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647030/
  2. Bernstein, C., Wayne, P. M., Rist, P. M., Osypiuk, K., Hernandez, A., & Kowalski, M. (2019). Integrating Chiropractic Care Into the Treatment of Migraine Headaches in a Tertiary Care Hospital: A Case Series. Global advances in health and medicine, 8, 2164956119835778. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6440032/
  3. Yablon, L. A., & Mauskop, A. (2011). Magnesium in headache. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. Adelaide (AU). Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507271/
  4. Namazi, N., Heshmati, J., & Tarighat-Esfanjani, A. (2015). Supplementation with Riboflavin (Vitamin B. Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res., 85(1–2), 79-87. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26780280
  5. Shaheen, N. A., Alqahtani, A. A., Assiri, H., Alkhodair, R., & Hussein, M. A. (2018). Public knowledge of dehydration and fluid intake practices: variation by participants’ characteristics. BMC public health, 18(1), 1346. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6282244/
  6. Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S., & Andersen, M. L. (2015). Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Science, 8(3), 143-152. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688585/
  7. Ahn, A. H., & Goadsby, P. J. (2013, November). Migraine and sleep: new connections. In Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science (Vol. 2013). Dana Foundation. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997296/
  8. Shapiro, R. E. (2008). Caffeine and headaches. Current pain and headache reports, 12(4), 311. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18625110
  9. Sajadi-Ernazarova, K. R., & Hamilton, R. J. (2019). Caffeine, Withdrawal. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430790/
  10. Sharma, H. (2015). Meditation: process and effects. Ayu, 36(3), 233. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895748/
  11. Beyer, K. M., Kaltenbach, A., Szabo, A., Bogar, S., Nieto, F. J., & Malecki, K. M. (2014). Exposure to neighborhood green space and mental health: evidence from the survey of the health of Wisconsin. International journal of environmental research and public health, 11(3), 3453-3472. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3987044/
  12. Rayati, F., Hajmanouchehri, F., & Najafi, E. (2017). Comparison of anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Ginger powder and Ibuprofen in postsurgical pain model: A randomized, double-blind, case–control clinical trial. Dental research journal, 14(1), 1. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356382/
  13. Borhani Haghighi, A., Motazedian, S., Rezaii, R., Mohammadi, F., Salarian, L., Pourmokhtari, M., … & Miri, R. (2010). Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, crossed‐over study. International journal of clinical practice, 64(4), 451-456. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20456191
  14. Sasannejad, P., Saeedi, M., Shoeibi, A., Gorji, A., Abbasi, M., & Foroughipour, M. (2012). Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. European neurology, 67(5), 288-291. Abstract: https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/335249
  15. Webb, A. J. S., & Rothwell, P. M. (2012). The effect of antihypertensive treatment on headache and blood pressure variability in randomized controlled trials: a systematic review. Journal of neurology, 259(9), 1781-1787. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22354262
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Dr. Ty Carzoli

Denver Chiropractor Dr. Ty Carzoli, located in Glendale near Cherry Creek and Wash Park, offers the best in research-based pain relief and wellness care, with an emphasis on gentle treatment delivery. Dr. Carzoli is honored to be the only Chiropractic Orthospinologist in the state of Colorado. The mission of Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic is to help community members have a better life, regardless of their age, vitality level or physical condition. Our practice is family-friendly and caters to the comfort and well-being of every practice member — from infants to seniors.
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Reviews

Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic

5.0

Based on 139 reviews.

Dr.Ty Carzoli is extremely professional, punctual and informative. The office is clean and organized. My treatments from him have allowed me to think towards the future, not just day to day. Overall, a great experience!

Leslie Goodman

I absolutely LOVE going to Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic. Dr. Ty knows his stuff and I've never felt better. His style of chiropractic care has improved my sleeping, mood, and fitness capacity. Plus, they are really great at making me feel appreciated. See super sweet picture from my birthday. I would HIGHLY recommend giving them a try, but only if you really want to improve how you feel.

Carla Streff

Overall, I didn’t necessarily feel that I had any particular issues other than a prior shoulder injury that slightly bothered me when I exercised with a heavy set of weights. I felt fairly energetic due to the typical routine of exercise and eating a well balanced healthy diet. The idea for my treatment was to be more proactive about my long term health and ensure that I was in proper alignment.
After my initial consultation, I found out my body was out of alignment more than I felt. I did not feel much different after the first few adjustments; however, what I did not realize until a few weeks in is that I had been waking up prior to treatment with kind of a groggy kind of feeling. After years of waking up like this I assumed this was just the norm. I now have been waking up with little fatigue and grogginess (even with a 10 month old baby) and a new burst of revitalization even if I did not get a full 8 hours of sleep. The feeling of being excited the day before a trip has been occurring on the standard day getting up for work. My workouts have also seen an improvement with the new improved energy levels as well as the standard weight I typically lift went up with little efforts.
Dr. Ty is extremely knowledgeable about what he does and would not think about using anyone else for my care. I love walking into the awesome environment that Dr. Ty has established and the overall care that comes from the visits. Dr. Ty and his fantastic staff has an amazing energy that I very much look forward to when visiting the office!
Even if you think that you have a good alignment, you should be sure to visit Dr. Ty for a great proactive health care plan!

Derek Greer

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Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic | 303-955-8270