We’ve all experienced painful headaches before; whatever the reason, it’s a common ailment that usually passes within a few hours. But when the pain is particularly bad, it can be hard to tell whether a headache you’re experiencing is ‘just a bad headache’ or a migraine. Discovering the answer can make treatment quicker and more effective.
Despite how common they are, headaches can be hugely debilitating. What differentiates a severe tension headache from a migraine usually depends on a few specific criteria – or warning signs.
Migraines are just one type of (particularly bad) headache, and they tend to come with some marked tendencies. The first is that the pain is often moderate to severe – it’s rare to have a migraine that only results in a mild headache. Sometimes the pain can be severe enough that people end up seeking medical help.
But that’s not the only symptom. Another common tendency with migraines is experiencing an aura; that is, a neurological symptom such as blurred vision, difficulty speaking, numbness or a tingling sensation. Migraines can occur with or without an aura.
Migraines can be tricky, as not everyone will experience these additional symptoms. But if you do experience a headache alongside one or any of these signs, then there’s a chance you could be having a migraine:
The symptoms can last for anywhere between a few hours to a few days. It’s also common to feel tired for several days following a particularly bad migraine.
Aside from migraines, the most common types of headache include cluster headaches, tension headaches, and secondary headaches. These are defined as follows:
The main reason why it’s worth being able to distinguish a migraine from a tension headache, for example, is so that you can choose the most appropriate form of treatment. Medication for migraines often differs slightly to that which is recommended for a headache.
Headaches can be treated fairly easily with over-the-counter painkillers, such as Nurofen Plus Tablets. These contain Ibuprofen and Codeine and should be taken with water every six hours as required, up to three times daily.
Other pain relief alternatives include aspirin, paracetamol, and Ibuprofen. Relaxation techniques such as massage or meditation can also help to relieve headaches.
On the other hand, treating migraines effectively sometimes requires more than just a regular painkiller. Triptans and anti-nausea medications can help to relieve some of the other associated symptoms. The Independent Pharmacy stocks Sumatriptan (generic Imigran), a form of anti-migraine medication that stops the blood vessels in the brain from widening and stabilises some of the chemical changes that occur. Triptans are considered the most effective treatment for halting a migraine attack when you can feel it coming on.
Sumatriptan is prescription-only and should not be taken in excess of 300 mg over 24 hours.
If you suffer from migraines regularly, your doctor may suggest additional lifestyle changes, such as eliminating certain foods and chemicals from the diet (particularly alcohol and caffeine) and taking steps to reduce stress levels.
If you have any queries or concerns about migraines, you can visit our advice area.
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