Headaches Vs. Migraines

​Many people get headaches and migraines confused, but it’s important to know the difference. Although a typical tension headache can certainly make you uncomfortable, the pain of a migraine can be almost unbearable. Even though migraines might make you feel as if you can’t function, some headaches can be even more serious and can be a sign of serious health issues. Dr. Mark Malone, certified in pain management and anesthesiology, says that knowing the difference can help you seek the right treatment and can let you know whether or not a visit to a doctor is in order.

Different Types of Headaches

There are two main types of headaches: primary and secondary. Tension headaches are primary headaches, and they are the most common type of head pain that people experience. Migraines are also considered primary headaches. Cluster headaches are primary headaches too, but they are not as common as migraines or tension headaches.

Secondary headaches are a bit more rare and are actually more serious than migraines and other primary headaches. They are typically caused by serious medical issues, such as brain tumors or aneurysms, inflammatory diseases and other serious problems. If you have secondary headaches, it is critical to see a physician; he or she will be able to diagnose the cause of your headaches and can address the issue that is causing them.

Even though they are less serious than secondary headaches, primary headaches can still be a major cause of pain. Migraines can be incredibly severe, and tension headaches can be very painful and troubling. Determining the type of headache that you are suffering from is important; not only can it help you address any underlying medical issues that might be causing them, but it can also help ensure that you seek the right type of treatment for your head pain.


Migraines can be very severe; in fact, they can hurt so bad that they can be crippling. In many cases, migraines are accompanied by nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to lights and sounds. Other severe headaches are generally accompanied by neurological issues, and a physician can give you a neurological exam to determine if you are having these types of secondary headaches.

There are a few other cues that you can look at to determine if you are suffering from a migraine or a secondary headache:

Level of Pain

All types of headaches can obviously be uncomfortable. However, if the headache is simply distracting or slightly painful, it probably isn’t a migraine. Migraines are known for being very intense.


In most cases, migraines are only felt on one side of your head.

Reaction to Medication

Migraine medication typically doesn’t help with regular tension headaches, so if your migraine medication doesn’t help alleviate your head pain, you might be experiencing a different type of headache. If medication doesn’t help at all, there is a chance that you could be experiencing a secondary headache, so you will need to see a physician for a proper diagnosis.

Other Symptoms

Are you feeling nauseous, or is the pain from your headache so bad that you have been vomiting? Do you see flashes of light or blind spots just before your head starts hurting? If so, you are probably experiencing migraines.

If you have severe headaches regularly, it is important to see a physician. Your doctor can determine whether you’re having migraines or if there are other causes for your headaches, and he or she can help you by providing various treatment options that can help alleviate your pain.

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