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Is It a Headache or a Migraine?

June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month! This month is a time to advocate for recognition and treatment of migraines and headaches, and to celebrate healthcare providers and patient advocates within the migraine community.

Headaches and Migraines


There are many different types of headaches that can all present differently. Three common examples include tension, cluster, and sinus headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common type and are typically mild to moderate in intensity and occur on both sides of the head.

Cluster headaches, which occur in cyclical patterns or cluster periods, can be one of the most painful types of headaches. People experiencing cluster headaches often complain of intense pain around one eye or one side of the head.

Sinus headaches may feel like an infection in the sinuses (sinusitis) and present as pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. Many people who assume they have headaches from sinusitis, including many who have received such a diagnosis, may actually have migraines!


Migraines can cause a variety of symptoms including severe throbbing on one side of the head, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. In some cases, the pain and symptoms can be so severe that it interferes with activities of daily living, such as work and family obligations. A migraine may last for a couple hours, a couple days, or even longer.

Prevention and Treatment of Migraines


If you think that you may be having migraine headaches, call your doctor. Migraines can often be diagnosed simply from a description of your symptoms or a physical neurological exam. There are many types of medications that can help prevent migraines or stop and/or shorten them once they start. However, an important first step is to be correctly diagnosed.


The Mayo Clinic recommends that when symptoms of migraine start, you should try heading to a quiet, darkened room to close your eyes and rest or, if possible, take a nap. You could also try placing a cool cloth or ice pack wrapped in a towel or cloth on your forehead or at the back of your neck. Other practices that might soothe migraines include:

  • Practice relaxation techniques. Biofeedback and other forms of relaxation training teach you ways to deal with stressful situations, which might help reduce the number of migraines you have.

  • Develop a sleep routine. Set and follow a consistent sleep and wake schedule.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated, particularly with water, might help.

  • Keep a headache diary. Continue recording in your headache diary even after you see your doctor. It will help you learn more about what triggers your migraines and what treatment is most effective.

  • Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise reduces tension and can help prevent a migraine. If your doctor agrees, choose an aerobic activity you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, or cycling. Warm up slowly, however, because sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches.


Check out the National Headache Foundation’s website for more information and resources to learn and advocate this month!

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