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Migraine vs Headache: What’s the Difference?

We’ve all had to deal with headaches, but not everyone has had the misfortune of dealing with a migraine.

Approximately 12 percent of Americans suffer from migraines, although there are plenty of people who are unable to tell if they have a migraine or a particularly bad headache.

This is because the difference between the two is not always completely obvious.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about how to a tell if you have a migraine vs headache.

So, What’s The Difference?

While headaches can be severe and migraines can occasionally be mild (at least in comparison to some migraines), there are key differences between the two you need to know.


Symptoms of headaches include a feeling of pain or pressure in your head. While pain is usually present on both sides of your head, there could be an area of concentration where it hurts the most.

Stress, anxiety, and general fatigue are all common triggers for headaches.

Some may last for an extended period of time (even up to a week or so), but most headaches resolve themselves within an hour.


Unfortunately for those affected, migraines involve much more than a bit of discomfort on the sides of the head.

Nausea, sensitivity to light, and sharp pain in and around the temples are all hallmark symptoms of a migraine.

It’s not uncommon for a migraine to be so severe that you’ll have to take off work or skip going to class until you feel better. Sometimes, the pain is so intense that you’ll need to make a visit to the ER for treatment.

How Can I Tell For Sure?

It’s actually easier than you think to tell what type of issue you’re having.

We’ll make it as simple as possible. If you are experiencing:

  • Mild pain or dull pressure
  • Pain that is spread out and not focused on a single area
  • Have no nausea or sensitivity to light

You likely have a headache.

If you are experiencing:

  • Sharp pulsing or throbbing
  • Pain focused in a single area
  • Nausea/dizziness or an aversion to light

You’re probably suffering from a migraine.

What Should I Do If I Have a Migraine?

As previously mentioned, a trip to the emergency room may be necessary. But, if you feel as though you can handle the pain on your own, taking medication for nausea and pain relief can help you manage the symptoms until they subside.

For children, however, it would be wise to see a medical professional as migraines are more common in adults.

Telling the Difference Between a Migraine vs Headache Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information in mind, you’ll be well on your way to figuring out if you have a migraine vs headache and treating it appropriately.

Want to learn more about common health issues and how to deal with them? Make sure to check out the rest of our blog!