Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

Key difference - headache vs. migraine

Headache is a very common but uncomfortable condition that we experience in our daily life. The severity may not be great enough to keep us away from our daily lifestyles, but some headaches can be really tormenting and leave us stuck to bed for nothing at all. However, most of us tend to mistake a headache for a migraine. The main difference between headaches and migraines is that migraines typically only affect one side of the head, while headaches can affect both sides of the head, temples, and neck.

This article explains

1. What is a headache - characteristics, signs and symptoms, causes, types, treatment

2. What is a migraine - characteristics, signs and symptoms, causes, types, treatment

3. What is the difference between a headache and a migraine? Difference Between Headaches and Migraines - Summary of Comparison

What is a headache

Headache is an uncomfortable feeling in your head that can be either pressure or pain. The severity can depend on how you tolerate the pain (pain threshold) and can vary from mild to severe. The most common headaches are forehead, temples, and neck. Headache can appear as a symptom of an underlying pathology, so headache that is persistent or that adversely affects daily activities requires medical advice.

There are different types of headaches based on the underlying etiology as follows.

Primary headache

  • Tension headache

- This is a type of headache that feels similar to a rubber band squeezing around your head. This dull pain is caused by the contraction of the muscles between the head and neck and usually occurs all over the head and can be mild to moderate in severity. A seizure usually lasts half an hour to a few hours, but in severe cases it can last days.

  • Cluster headache

- Severe and painful headache, mostly on one side of the head (unilateral). Painful seizures experienced here are usually clusters and are accompanied by headache-free episodes.

  • Migraine headache

- Moderate to severe pain that naturally throbbing on one side of the head or in the front area. May be accompanied by nausea and blurred vision.

Secondary headache

These headaches usually appear as part of an underlying medical condition or injury.

  • Sinus headache

- This is the most common type of secondary headache that may occur due to an underlying infection or increased sinus pressure.

  • Headache from drug overuse

- Long-term use of certain medications can cause persistent headaches. This type of headache will usually go away with stopping the medication and using alternatives.

A patient with acute or chronic headache should be carefully evaluated for an accurate diagnosis. Particular attention should be paid to numerous signs and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, aura, stiff neck, fever, ear discharge, etc.

Headache treatment

Over-the-counter drugs

  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • aspirin

Relaxation techniques

  • Heat therapy
  • physical therapy
  • Massages
  • Neck exercises with stretching

Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a throbbing pain that usually occurs in one side of the head and is triggered by certain things or situations. Migraines themselves, which make up a significant proportion of women (75%), are known to have a tremendously negative impact on the workforce in a community.

The most common triggering factors for migraines include:

  • Foods like caffeine and chocolate
  • Emphasize
  • Hormones
  • Cold climate
  • Wake up in the morning
  • Long trips or flights

Signs and symptoms

There are two main categories of migraines based on the presence of aura, a vivid visual sensation that people experience 10-30 minutes before a migraine attack.

  • Migraines with aura
  • Migraines without aura

Migraines with aura are usually associated with:

  • Disturbed thinking
  • Visual disturbances such as flashing lights or vivid lines
  • A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or face
  • Sensory disorders of the sense of smell, taste or touch

Other signs and symptoms related to migraines include:

  • yawning
  • irritability
  • constipation
  • Neck stiffness
  • Unusual food cravings

Treatment of migraines

  • Prevent and keep your distance from triggering factors
  • Diet change (avoid alcohol and caffeine)
  • Taking prescribed medications such as antidepressants , antihypertensive drugs, anti- epileptic drugs
  • psychotherapy


Drugs such as antiemetics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and triptans.

Key difference - convenience vs. convenience

Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

A migraine is a type of headache that is usually caused by various triggers such as the environment, stress, hormones, food, and so on.


Most migraines are moderate to severe compared to headaches, although the severity depends on the underlying cause and can vary from mild to moderate to severe.

Affected websites

Migraines typically only affect one side of the head (unilateral), although some patients rarely experience bilateral pain.

The most common headaches are forehead, temples, and neck.

Characteristic of pain

As for the pain characteristics, headaches are usually intense and painful, while migraines are throbbing and dull, making daily activities quite difficult or impossible.

Image courtesy:

"Migraine Infographic" by Pain Pix (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

“Migraine” by Sasha Wolff from Grand Rapids - Can't concentrate: 14/365 (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

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