What is the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine?
Headaches are often classified as sinus headaches, tension headaches, or migraines. Symptoms of the above headaches include:
- Sinus headaches– caused by inflammation of the sinuses, can cause a dull, deep, throbbing pain in the front of your head and face.
- Tension headaches– the most common form of headache, can cause a dull, aching pain, with a sensation of tightness across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head. Tension headaches may also cause tenderness in your head, neck, and shoulders.
- Migraine– migraines differ from sinus and tension headaches in symptomatic intensity. Migraine attacks can cause significant pain and can be so severe that the pain is disabling. Migraine attacks can last for hours or days. Symptoms of migraines include:
– Severe throbbing pain in the head
– Pulsing sensation in one or both sides of the head
– Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
What Causes Headaches and Migraines?
There are various triggers thought to initiate migraine headaches. These triggers include:
- Foods such as chocolate, cheese, nuts, and alcohol
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Emotional or physical stress
- Menstrual cycle
- High cholesterol
- Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia
- Tourette syndrome
- Essential tremors
- Cerebral amyloid angiopathy
How are Headaches and Migraines Treated?
Fortunately, headaches and migraines are treatable conditions. Treatments for headaches and migraines include:
- Pain relievers– Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Excedrin Migraine.
- Indomethacin suppository– NSAID pain reliever that also works to reduce hormones that cause pain and inflammation in the body.
- Triptans– a class of drug that causes the blood vessels constrict and block pain pathways in the brain. Available in pill, injection, and nasal spray. Commonly prescribed triptans include: Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, and Amerge.
- Ergots– ergotamine and caffeine combination drugs that work by constricting blood vessels and blocking pain pathways in the brain. Ergots work more quickly than triptans due to the caffeine combination as the caffeine allows the drug to enter the blood stream more quickly. Commonly prescribed ergots include: Migergot, Cafergot, and Migranal, which also available in a nasal spray and injection.
- Antiemetics- antiemetics, or anti-nausea medication, is often prescribed to counteract nausea and vomiting caused by migraines. Commonly prescribed antiemetics include: Phenegran, Zofran, Reglan, and Compro.
- Opioids– opioid medications are narcotic pain relievers that may be prescribed for pain associated with migraines. Most doctors will require that you try other drugs for symptom relief before prescribing opioids because opioids are habit-forming and can be harmful when not used as prescribed.
- Glucocorticoids- steroids used to combat inflammation. The most commonly prescribed glucocorticoids is prednisone.
- Preventative medications– preventative medications are prescribed to migraine suffers to reduce the frequency and severity of their migraines. Prescribed preventive medications include:
– Beta-blockers– Inderal LA, Innopran XL, Lopressor and Betimol
– Calcium channel blocker– Calan, Verelan, Verapamil, and Zestril
– Tricyclic antidepressants– Amitriptyline
– Anti-seizure medication– Depakote and Topamax
– Onabotulinumtoxin– Botox
- Acupuncture- some migraine sufferers find acupuncture helpful for headache and migraine pain. During an acupuncture treatment, several thin, disposable needles will be inserted into the skin at specific points in the body.
- Biofeedback– this technique uses special equipment to teach you how to monitor and control physical responses caused by stress.
- Massage therapy- massage therapy is used to reduce stress and muscle tension.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy– this type of psychotherapy will teach you how behaviors and thoughts affect the way you perceive pain.
- Herbs, vitamins and minerals– some migraine sufferers find herbs, vitamins, and minerals helpful. These include:
– Riboflavin (vitamin B-2)
– Coenzyme Q10