Determining the cause of head pain can be difficult, as cranial pain and pressure are symptomatic of many types of ailments. Here are a few tips to help you distinguish normal headache pain from a migraine.


Common Headache Characteristics

Common headaches produce mild to moderate pains that occur on one or both sides of the head, forehead, back of the neck or temples. Headaches manifest in several different ways, with each common type being associated with its own set of unique symptoms.


Tension headaches are often caused by stress, anxiety or muscle strain. Sufferers often describe feeling the sensation of a tight band or vise around the head. Common symptoms include neck and face aches, dizziness and light sensitivity.


Cluster headaches form pain spots in localized clusters, often on the sides of the head or temples. Symptoms are often similar to nasal allergies: runny nose, watery eyes, and congestion. They may also cause puffiness or redness of the face and eyes.


Sinus headaches are often confused with migraines or sinus infections as they are often intense in severity and come with a host of overlapping symptoms. They are characterized by facial pressure, congestion, cough, watery eyes and, in some cases, fever.

Common Migraine Headache Characteristics

Migraines are severe, crippling headaches that can linger for up to several days at a time. They are usually defined by a pulsing or throbbing sensation, often localized to one region of the head; however, symptoms aren’t always consistent. Even patients who frequently suffer from migraine attacks may report varying manifestations of pain.

Typical Migraine Symptoms Include

  • Blind spots, auras, flickering lights or spots in vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Tingling in the extremities


Some patients also report neck pain, a sudden change in mood or demeanor, watery eyes and sudden food cravings at the onset of a migraine attack.


An estimated 13 percent of the population suffers from migraine headaches. Treatment is difficult, as the best way to remedy a migraine is to head it off before it develops into a full-blown attack. Some people find their migraines non-responsive to medications while others might find relief from holistic remedies.


Chronic migraines are defined as persistent headaches occurring for at least 15 days within a month. If you believe you are suffering from chronic headaches, contact your doctor or call The Migraine Institute to schedule an appointment.

Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

As a general rule, common headaches are less severe than migraines. A common headache may only cause mild discomfort or dull pressure while migraines present stabbing, burning or pulsating pain.


Migraines are often caused or related to certain environmental triggers including changes in the weather, certain foods and beverages, alcohol, harsh lighting, lack of sleep and strong smells. Maintaining a headache log or diary may be beneficial in recognizing certain patterns or triggers associated with the onset of headaches.


To see what kind of headache you might have you can reference this headache location chart.


If symptoms alone are not enough to distinguish a headache from a migraine, a medical diagnosis may be necessary. Learn more about diagnosis and migraine treatment options offered at The Migraine Institute, and give us a call today for more information or to schedule a consultation. Start living your life free of pain!


The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.

Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.

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