Sydney Headache & Migraine Centre

Understanding Migraine: What causes Migraine?

Headaches are a common ailment experienced by many, but not all headaches are created equal. Migraines stand apart due to their intensity, duration, and associated symptoms. In this blog, we will delve into the world of migraines; what is a migraine, exploring what sets them apart from regular headaches and shedding light on their distinct characteristics. 

Defining Headaches: Headaches are a broad category of pain experienced in the head or upper neck. They can range from mild discomfort to severe, throbbing pain and can be caused by various factors such as tension, sinus issues, or dehydration. Headaches are often linked to neck dysfunction of the upper neck which can be effectively treated by a Headache Practitioner. 


Understanding Migraines: Migraines, on the other hand, are a specific type of headache disorder characterized by recurrent, moderate to severe throbbing or pulsating pain. Unlike regular headaches, migraines are often accompanied by a variety of symptoms that can significantly impact a person’s daily life and ability to function properly.  


Common Features of Migraine 

Duration: Migraines typically last between 4 and 72 hours if left untreated.  

Pain Intensity: Migraines are known for their intense, debilitating pain that can be localised to one side of the head or pulsate throughout the entire head. Regular headaches, while still uncomfortable, are generally mild to moderate in intensity. 

Associated Symptoms: Migraines are often accompanied by additional symptoms beyond head pain. These can include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light (photophobia), sensitivity to sound (phonophobia), and visual disturbances (aura) such as flashing lights or blind spots. These symptoms are less commonly experienced with regular headaches.  

Impact on Daily Life: Migraines can significantly disrupt daily activities and quality of life. People experiencing a migraine attack often find it difficult to concentrate, experience fatigue, and may need to retreat to a quiet, dark room to find relief. Regular headaches, while bothersome, typically do not disrupt daily life to the same extent.   Triggers: Migraines are often triggered by specific factors such as hormonal changes, certain foods or drinks, lack of sleep, stress, neck, and environmental stimuli. Regular headaches can be triggered by similar factors but may not exhibit the same level of sensitivity or specificity. 

    For more information read: Understanding triggers 

        Treatment Approach for Migraines

        The treatment approach will vary depending on the type of migraine diagnosed. The treatment requires a different approach compared to regular headaches. Over-the-counter pain relievers may offer some relief for mild migraines, but severe or recurrent migraines often necessitate specialised treatment.

        Prescription medications, such as triptans or preventive medications, may be prescribed by healthcare professionals however prevention strategies for migraines are beneficial for patients long term improved health. These may include treatment of the neck (Watson Headache® Approach), identifying and avoiding triggers, adopting a healthy lifestyle, diet, managing stress and good sleep hygiene. 

        Differentiating Migraines

        While both headaches and migraines involve head pain, the distinctive features of migraines set them apart from regular headaches. Migraines are typically more severe, lasting longer than regular headaches and often come with additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting  sensitivity to light, smell and sound, brain fog, difficulty finding words and visual disturbances.   

        Migraines can be categorised based on symptom presentation, such as: 

        • Migraine with aurareported changes in their vision. eg wavy lines, tunnel vision, flashing lights These symptoms are usually an indicator that a migraine is coming. 

        • Vestibular migraine – associated with vestibular symptoms such as false sense of motion or movement of visual surrounds or self-movement. This can last between five minutes and 72 hours.  
        • Hemiplegic migraine – an episode where there is loss of control of one side of the body, like experiencing a stroke. 


        In conclusion, migraines can significantly disrupt daily life and require specialised treatment approaches. Understanding the difference between headaches and migraines is essential for accurate diagnosis and effective management. If you are experiencing severe or recurrent headaches accompanied by additional symptoms, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional to determine whether you may be dealing with migraines. With proper diagnosis and personalised treatment, individuals can find relief and regain control over their lives.

        Book A Migraine/Headache Assessment

        Book online or give us a call on 1300MyHeadache (1300 694 323) to organise an assessment with Sydney Headache & Migraine Centre and learn more about what causes your migraines and how we can help treat them.

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