Despite the fact the two are frequently used interchangeably, there is a huge difference between a migraine and a headache. This tends to lead to a lot of confusion, to the point that migraineurs (the term used to describe a migraine sufferer) can begin to feel misunderstood.
It’s important to try and correct the misconceptions that surround migraines for two reasons.
- It can help you understand someone in your life if they are a migraineur.
- It can help you identify the difference between a migraine and a headache in your own life. They require very specific types of treatment and management. A headache can be dealt with relatively simply. On the other hand, a migraine requires more complex management; you can read more here if this is an area you decide you need to explore.
So what do migraineurs want the general populace to know about their condition?
#1 – A Migraine Is Not “A Bad Headache”
If a headache is really bad, you’ll hear people begin to describe it as a migraine. In reality, it’s just a bad headache – a migraine is a totally separate thing.
Research is ongoing, but migraines are currently believed to be a kind of vascular event which impacts the blood vessels in the brain. This does cause a severe headache, leading to the kind of confusion of the term – but that’s not all it does.
In fact, it’s possible to have a migraine and not have a headache at all. They’re a total body event. The head pain is the best-known symptom of migraines, but it’s far from the only one.
#2 – There’s A Lot Of Symptoms… So Give Migraineurs A Break!
If someone takes time off work and labels their reason as being a migraine, someone not in-the-know about the difference may be dismissive. Everyone has to go to work with a headache, right?
Well, as discussed, a migraine is much more. For a start, it tends to cause a condition called gastric stasis, which means the digestive system grinds to a halt when a migraine is present. That leads to nausea, constipation, and diarrhea – not to mention it can make it difficult to absorb medication to help ease the migraine! That’s why a lot of migraine treatments are under-the-tongue; it’s to bypass the halted GI system.
#3 – The Pain Is Bad
It’s not a bad headache; it’s extremely bad pain, that just happens to be in the head. There’s a big difference.
A classic migraine tends to only be in one half of the head – this is the easiest way of distinguishing them from “normal” headaches. The pain is made worse by movement and bright light; that’s why many migraineurs seek shelter in a darkened room. It can be excruciatingly painful.
#4 – Migraines Take Awhile To Recover From
It’s not a case of pop a few pills and be back on your feet, as with a normal headache. Migraines have a phase called postdrome, which is effectively “the aftermath of the pain”. Gastric stasis continues, and deep fatigue and a “flu-like” feeling sets in – and this can last up to three days.
If any of this sounds familiar, go and speak to a doctor – migraines can’t be cured, but they can be managed.