4 Signs Your Tension Headache is Actually a Migraine

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4 Signs Your Tension Headache is Actually a Migraine
Not all headaches are the same, and if you’re dealing with a migraine, it can be worlds apart from a tension headache. Read on to explore 4 signs that your tension headache is a migraine 一 and how we can help.

A tension headache is a mild to moderate discomfort in your head that feels as if a band is around your forehead. While tension headache pain may be distracting and unpleasant, it’s not debilitating. Migraines, however, are often described as debilitating. Migraines are severe, pulsating headaches that affect 36 million Americans 一 that’s more than the number of people with diabetes and asthma combined.

Knowing if you’re dealing with a tension headache or a migraine is the best way to find the right treatment to give you the relief you need. Board-certified neurologist Risa Ravitz, MD, and her team here at Modern Migraine MD are experts when it comes to diagnosing headaches (including migraine) and recommending the right treatment. 

Below, learn how to identify the four signs that your tension headache is actually a migraine.

1. You see lights

Are you seeing stars? Auras are visual or sensory disturbances that develop about an hour before your migraine starts, and they’re a telltale sign that you’re dealing with a migraine. Visual auras are the most common, and they can present in many ways, including:

  • Flashing lights
  • Seeing stars or dots
  • Zigzags 
  • Blind spots (scotomas)

Migraines with auras are sometimes called classic migraines. 

2. You’re nauseous 

Nausea is another symptom that tends to accompany migraines. For some, the nausea is also accompanied by vomiting. Nausea tends to occur in the prodrome phase (hours or days leading up to the migraine attack), while vomiting tends to occur in the headache phase. Experts believe the nausea-migraine connection is due to shifting serotonin levels in your brain.

3. Your neck hurts

Although neck pain can occur for many reasons, including strained muscles, “tech neck,” or pinched nerves, a 2019 study found that neck pain tends to affect those with chronic migraines more than other groups of people. What’s the connection? When the trigeminal nerve is triggered by a migraine, it can lead to neck pain and stiffness. According to the American Migraine Foundation, this also occurs during the headache phase of the migraine attack.

4. Your pain lasts for days

Unlike tension headaches, the entire migraine process can last for days. Here are the phases and timeline of each:

  • Prodrome: Hours to days before the headache
  • Aura: 5-60 minutes
  • Headache: 4-72 hours
  • Postdrome: 24-48 hours

Considering that migraine pain is more intense than tension headaches, it’s no wonder that a multiday migraine can take you out of commission. It’s hard to function at work or home when you’re nauseous, fatigued, and in pain for days on end.

Are your tension headaches really migraines?

If you run through your normal headache relief strategies and can’t manage your headache, you might be dealing with a migraine. Migraines are triggered by many things, including food, so it’s important to know what type of headache you have and what your triggers are. 

Because migraines can drastically affect your quality of life, don’t try to treat chronic migraines alone. Seeking medical care for your migraines is vital. Once Dr. Ravitz confirms that your symptoms are related to migraines, it’s time to create your customized treatment plan. Finding relief from migraines can give you back control over life again.

There are many types of migraine treatments, including medication (both medication to stop current attacks and medication to prevent future ones), Botox® injections (for chronic migraines), neuromodulation, peripheral nerve block, sphenopalatine ganglion block, CHRP monoclonal antibody injections, and radiofrequency ablation.

In addition to the above treatments, Dr. Ravitz can also prescribe medication and help you pinpoint your specific migraine triggers. 

Migraines are tough, but you don’t have to battle them alone. With convenient offices in New York City, New York; Toms River, New Jersey; and Aventura, Florida 一 as well as telehealth appointments available in 13 states 一 migraine treatment is just a call or click away.  Call 917-983-1943 today to schedule an appointment at any of our locations. You can also request an appointment online to start exploring your migraine treatment options.

Modern Migraine MD
✆ Phone (appointments): 917-983-1943
✆ Phone (general inquiries): 917-983-1943
Office fax: 212-504-7912
Address: 
39 West 29th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10001
24 West Water Street, Toms River, NJ 08753
20200 West Dixie Highway, Suite 902, Aventura, FL 33180