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What’s the Difference between a Migraine and a Headache?

October 21, 2015

Headache or MigraineNine out of 10 Americans get headaches. Some headaches are worse than others. When a headache is really bad, many people assume it’s a migraine. But before you start popping pills, it’s important to try to figure out what kind of headache you have.

A headache involves dull, unpleasant pain or pressure that can occur on both sides of the head or specific areas, like the forehead, temples, or the back of the neck. There are dozens of causes of headaches – far too many to mention in a single blog post. Some of the most common types of headaches include:

  • Tension headaches, caused by stress, anxiety, muscle strains and other factors
  • Cluster headaches, which typically occur on one side of the head and are often accompanied by common cold symptoms like a runny nose, nasal congestion or watery eyes.
  • Sinus headaches, which often come with a sinus infection

Headaches can also be caused by poor diet, poor posture, dehydration, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, stress, alcohol, dental issues, ear infections and any number of health issues, some of which can be very serious. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis if you have chronic headaches (15 or more days per month).

The first instinct is to reach for pills to make a headache go away, but very often, relaxing with a warm compress or a hot shower will do the trick. At Natural Healthcare Center, the most common treatment for a headache is chiropractic care. Study after study has shown that spinal manipulation can effectively treat headaches by improving spinal function and relieving stress on the spine. A chiropractor can also make recommendations about improved posture, ergonomics and exercise.

A migraine, on the other hand, is not just a very bad headache. A migraine typically involves intense, throbbing pain that can affect one side of the head or the entire head. That throbbing pain is the result of expanding and constricting blood vessels that produce inflammatory substances. These substances cause painful pulsations, or a throbbing sensation.

A migraine is often accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light and/or noise, fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, seeing flashes of light or blind spots, or an unusual sense of smell, taste or touch. It’s not uncommon for someone to feel symptoms such as depression, fatigue or constipation a day or two before a migraine.

Some people have to lie down in complete darkness and silence for a long period of time to make the pain of a migraine go away. There are also prescription medications with the most severe migraines, although many people overdose and make the condition worse.

Of course, most medications treat the symptom and not the cause. Migraines can be caused by everything from poor diet and lack of sleep to stress and hormonal imbalance. At Natural Healthcare Center, two of the most common treatments for migraines are acupuncture and clinical nutrition counseling.

Scientific studies suggest that acupuncture can help to reduce the duration and frequency of migraines. Acupuncture is based on the premise that blocked or weakened energy flow in the body causes the imbalances that lead to pain and illness. Acupuncture stimulates energy flow throughout the body to restore and maintain balance.

From a nutritional perspective, the food we eat affects our brain chemistry and how blood is pumped throughout our body. Whether you have a headache or a migraine, it’s a good idea to keep a food journal so a clinical nutritionist can see what foods could be triggering or contributing to your pain. Processed foods and artificial ingredients, sweeteners and coloring agents should be avoided at all cost.

If you feel pain in your head on a regular basis, come see us at Natural Healthcare Center and let us help you figure out if it’s a migraine or a headache. Remember, pain should not be accepted as normal. Let us get to the bottom of your pain and treat the cause, not the symptoms.

Dr. Proodian

Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician, health educator, and professional public speaker who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise is in identifying clinical imbalances and restoring the body to health and functionality. Contact: jproodian@naturalhc.com or (732) 222‑2219.