What is the difference between a headache and a migraine? Why does is matter? Your head hurts right, so why not classify it all as a headache? Well, because it's not the same and here's why...
A headache is caused by muscles contracting between the head/neck which causes pain, but it usually does not last too long and the pain is probably manageable with over the counter medication. When the average person has a normal headache, they generally can drink some water pop a couple ibuprofen and move on with their day. There are many days that I do not have a full blown migraine, but I have a headache. I can tell the difference. I go about my day and function. However, there are many different types of headache and they should not be taken lightly, especially if they are plaguing you often.
A migraine is NOT just a bad headache. Migraine is a neurological disorder with a vast number of symptoms that may differ from person to person. Lasting anywhere from 4-72 hours on average (some people experience them for even longer), a migraine causes many debilitating side effects that are not just head pain. The pain is not usually all over your head, it's concentrated. For me it feels like someone stabbing a knife up the back, left side of my head. Sometimes I experience pain in my eyes (usually the left), like someone shoving their thumb in my eye socket and pressing down. I also have a squeezing pain in my temples, but not every time. Other common symptoms (which I also experience many of) include nausea, vomiting, aura, vision issues, sensitivity to light and/or sound, neck pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, irritability, fatigue, nasal congestion and more.
You can get a headache from not sleeping well, being hung over or bumping your head- this is not a migraine. It can be so hard for those of us that suffer from migraine to hear people toss around the name of their disease with no real understanding of what it truly means. Using migraine loosely and inaccurately fuels the constant cycle of misunderstanding that surrounds us. Awareness is so important, and I want to empower those of us that have this terrible diagnosis to continue to explain to others that this is a neurological disorder... and it does NOT have a cure. If you have never had a true migraine, you cannot fathom the pain that is endured with each attack.
The American Migraine Foundation has a list of several types of migraine and headaches with definitions that are helpful in determining what a possible diagnosis could be if you don't already have one. Their entire site is informative, easy to navigate and can even help you find a provider in your area. They also explain different types of treatment, triggers, and help with funding for more research dedicated to migraine.