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4 Signs Your Tension Headache Is Actually a Migraine

4 Signs Your Tension Headache Is Actually a Migraine

Nothing can hijack your life quite like a headache, which is the third leading cause of time lost due to illness worldwide. There are about 150 different types of head pain, but we’re going to focus on two of the more common headaches here — migraines and tension headaches.

At Complete Neurological Care, our team of experienced neurology specialists understands the many ways head pain can develop, and we’re here to help. 

The first step is figuring out which type of headache you’re suffering from, because treatments for different types of headaches can vary considerably.

To that end, we’re taking a closer look at four key differences between tension headaches and migraines to give you a better idea about what may be behind your head pain.

Beyond the head pain

One of the key differences between tension headaches and migraines is that tension headaches only lead to head pain, while migraines can come with a host of other symptoms.

Migraines are neurological disorders, and many people experience the head pain in addition to other issues, including:

Some of these symptoms often crop up before the head pain begins, in what we call prodrome and aura stages. And after the migraine subsides, you may experience a postdrome phase in which you feel spent and confused.

These side effects don’t occur with tension headaches, which really only counts head pain as a symptom.

A difference in head pain

When it comes to the head pain itself, tension headaches are often described as a feeling that your head is being held in a vice grip. This discomfort typically begins at the back of your head and then extends around your head.

With a migraine, most sufferers experience a throbbing pain on one side of their head only. If you do feel head pain on both sides, it’s usually worse on one.

A difference (and one similarity) in triggers

Many people with migraines have certain triggers that bring them on. Some of the more common triggers include:

The last trigger on this list — stress — is one that tension headache sufferers share, as stress is most often cited as a trigger for tension headaches. Aside from stress (and related to it), muscle tension is also thought to play a role triggering tension headaches.

Subtle differences in duration

There are no clear-cut differences in duration between tension headaches and migraines, but there are some subtle differences. Migraine attacks can last for several hours or several days, while tension headaches can last only 30 minutes or months at a time.

These long-lasting tension headaches typically don’t vary in terms of pain severity, but they can leave you struggling with an ongoing ache around your head.

Migraines can occur frequently, but each attack is more defined, with an onset and then a dying down period.

Regardless of whether you’re suffering from tension headaches or migraines, the fact that you’re reading this likely means that the headaches are disrupting your life.

If you want to get to the bottom of your head pain and find meaningful relief, please contact one of our offices in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, or Margate, Florida, to schedule an appointment with one of our headache specialists.

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