There are over 7 million tension-type headache sufferers in Australia, and over 4 million Migraine sufferers! Between these two conditions, they make up one of the most prevalent and debilitating health conditions in the country. Despite how common these two conditions are, not many people understand the difference between the two. Understanding the key differences between headache and migraine is an important step on the way to finding the ideal treatment plan for you!
While both headache and migraine are common causes of head pain, there are multiple key differences that make them very different experiences for our patients. The key differences being; the type of pain and sensation, intensity of the symptoms, and the different associated symptoms experienced during an attack.
Migraines are generally more intense
One of the main differences that our patients describe is:
- Pain – moderate to serve
- Patient rate – 7/10 or higher
Headache (tension-type headaches)
- Pain – mild to moderate
- Patient rate – 3-6/10
Migraines tend to be a throbbing or pulsating pain
Headaches can be experienced in a wide variety of ways, but most commonly the pain is described as an “ache”, “pressure” or “a tightening around the head”. These descriptions are classical of the most common type of headache, ‘tension-type headache’.
Migraines are often described as a ‘throbbing’ or ‘pounding’ or ‘pulsating’ pain. This pain is generally experienced on one-side of the head at a time, but may swap sides during or in between attacks.
Migraines can have a wide range of symptoms
While head pain is often a common symptom, migraines are actually a neurological event that can include a wide range of different symptoms (and don’t even have to include head pain!). Commonly, sufferers of migraines will experience aura, nausea, vomiting, vertigo or dizziness, and sensitivity to light/sound/smell.
Tension-type headaches sufferers can experience some nausea and sensitivity to light or sound, but it is uncommon for them to experience many other symptoms.
The misconceptions and misunderstandings between headaches & migraines can cause a lot of concern for sufferers, as people can under-estimate what a sufferer is really experiencing. Often, even health professionals can mis-interpret the symptoms you are experiencing, leading to poor management or a general lack of empathy. Having your symptoms assessed by a health professional who understands both headaches & migraines and treats both every day is essential! Correct diagnosis can help identify the best possible treatment plan for you.