Migraines vs. Headaches

Headaches are extremely common. A global estimate reveals that about 50% of adults across the world have dealt with one or more headaches in the last year. Between 1-4% of the world’s population deal with headaches 15 days or more in a month. Migraines are also very common, affecting 1 billion people or 15% of the world’s population. Migraines affect 37 million people in the United States. Because the symptoms are similar, many people don’t know the difference.

Patients living in the Grand Island, Nebraska area can find relief for headaches and migraines under the care of physicians Timothy Dunugan, DC, and Brian Dunugan, DC, at Grand Island Chiropractic Center.

How are headaches and migraines different?

Conditions that cause pain in the head are referred to as headache disorders. There are many types of headache disorders, including headaches and migraines.


A headache can be an episodic (happens every so often) or chronic (happens on a regular basis) primary condition. A primary headache means the pain in your head is the condition rather than a symptom of something else. It can cover a wide variety of pains in your head. The type of discomfort you feel can indicate different types of headaches, including:

Many headaches are mild, but others may require medical attention. If your headache is accompanied by vomiting, confusion, slurred speech, and fever, seek immediate medical attention.


A migraine is an acute form of headache that often presents with an intense pulsing or throbbing pain. Really bad migraines can also mean vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, and can last for days at a time. Migraines can present in four stages:

Not every person has all four stages, and migraines can start as early as childhood.

How do you treat a headache?

Treatment for headaches will vary depending on your symptoms. Tension headaches are often treated by over-the-counter medicine; sinus headaches are treated with allergy or sinus medicine; and cluster headaches use corticosteroids or calcium channel blockers. Rebound and caffeine headaches usually require moderating or stopping use altogether. Post trauma headaches can be treated with triptans or beta blockers.

Many episodic headaches go away on their own and can be treated with over-the-counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Chronic headaches may be treated over the counter, but may need medical attention. If either type of headache is severe, prescription medications may also be used. 

How do you treat a migraine?

Migraines can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on severity. Abortive medications like dihydroergotamine (D.H.E.) are used to stop migraines once they start, and preventive medications keep migraines from happening. Triptans can also be used to block pain pathways to the brain, as well as some over-the-counter medications for milder cases. Medications to manage symptoms like nausea and vomiting may also be used.

Knowing your symptoms can help us understand what kind of headache disorder you may be dealing with. If you’re suffering with any of these conditions, call our office or book an appointment online to get help today.

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