Everything You Want to Know About Migraine

What does migraine feel like?

People describe migraine pain as:

  • pulsating
  • throbbing
  • perforating
  • pounding
  • debilitating

It can also feel like a severe, dull, steady ache. The pain may start out as mild. But without treatment, it can become moderate to severe.

Migraine pain most commonly affects the forehead area. It’s usually on one side of the head, but it can occur on both sides or shift.

Most migraine attacks last about 4 hours. If they’re not treated or don’t respond to treatment, they can last for as long as 72 hours to a week. In migraine with aura, pain may overlap with an aura or may never occur at all.

Migraine symptoms

Migraine symptoms may begin 1 to 2 days before the headache itself. This is known as the prodrome stage. Symptoms during this stage can include:

  • food cravings
  • depression
  • fatigue or low energy
  • frequent yawning
  • hyperactivity
  • irritability
  • neck stiffness

In migraine with aura, the aura occurs after the prodrome stage. During an aura, you may have problems with your vision, sensation, movement, and speech. Examples of these problems include:

  • difficulty speaking clearly
  • feeling a prickling or tingling sensation in your face, arms, or legs
  • seeing shapes, light flashes, or bright spots
  • temporarily losing your vision

The next phase is known as the attack phase. This is the most acute or severe of the phases when the actual migraine pain occurs. In some people, this can overlap or occur during an aura. Attack phase symptoms can last anywhere from hours to days. Symptoms of migraine can vary from person to person.

Some symptoms may include:

  • increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • nausea
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • pain on one side of your head, either on the left side, right side, front, or back, or in your temples
  • pulsing and throbbing head pain
  • vomiting

After the attack phase, a person will often experience the postdrome phase. During this phase, there are usually changes in mood and feelings. These can range from feeling euphoric and extremely happy to feeling very fatigued and apathetic. A mild, dull headache may persist.

The length and intensity of these phases can occur to different degrees in different people. Sometimes, a phase gets skipped, and a migraine attack may occur without causing a headache.

What causes migraine attacks?

Researchers haven’t identified a definitive cause for migraine. But they still believe the condition is due to “abnormal” brain activity that affects nerve signaling, and chemicals and blood vessels in the brain.

There are also many migraine triggers that are continually reported, including:

If you experience a migraine attack, your doctor may ask you to keep a headache journal. Writing down what you were doing, what foods you ate, and what medications you took before your migraine attack began can help identify your triggers.

Migraine treatment

Migraine can’t be cured, but your doctor can help you manage migraine attacks by giving you the tools to treat symptoms when they occur, which may lead to fewer attacks in general. Treatment can also help make migraine less severe.

More than just the cause of “really bad headaches,” migraine is a neurological condition that can cause multiple symptoms. While intense, debilitating headaches frequently characterize it, additional symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • difficulty speaking
  • numbness or tingling
  • sensitivity to light and sound

The condition often runs in families and can affect all ages. People assigned female at birth are more likely than people assigned male at birth to be diagnosed with migraine.

The diagnosis of migraine is determined based on clinical history, reported symptoms, and by ruling out other causes. The most common categories of migraine headaches (or attacks) are episodic versus chronic, and then those without aura and those with aura.

What does migraine feel like?

People describe migraine pain as:

  • pulsating
  • throbbing
  • perforating
  • pounding
  • debilitating

It can also feel like a severe, dull, steady ache. The pain may start out as mild. But without treatment, it can become moderate to severe.

Migraine pain most commonly affects the forehead area. It’s usually on one side of the head, but it can occur on both sides or shift.

Most migraine attacks last about 4 hours. If they’re not treated or don’t respond to treatment, they can last for as long as 72 hours to a week. In migraine with aura, pain may overlap with an aura or may never occur at all.

Migraine symptoms

Migraine symptoms may begin 1 to 2 days before the headache itself. This is known as the prodrome stage. Symptoms during this stage can include:

  • food cravings
  • depression
  • fatigue or low energy
  • frequent yawning
  • hyperactivity
  • irritability
  • neck stiffness

In migraine with aura, the aura occurs after the prodrome stage. During an aura, you may have problems with your vision, sensation, movement, and speech. Examples of these problems include:

  • difficulty speaking clearly
  • feeling a prickling or tingling sensation in your face, arms, or legs
  • seeing shapes, light flashes, or bright spots
  • temporarily losing your vision

The next phase is known as the attack phase. This is the most acute or severe of the phases when the actual migraine pain occurs. In some people, this can overlap or occur during an aura. Attack phase symptoms can last anywhere from hours to days. Symptoms of migraine can vary from person to person.

Some symptoms may include:

  • increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • nausea
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • pain on one side of your head, either on the left side, right side, front, or back, or in your temples
  • pulsing and throbbing head pain
  • vomiting

After the attack phase, a person will often experience the postdrome phase. During this phase, there are usually changes in mood and feelings. These can range from feeling euphoric and extremely happy to feeling very fatigued and apathetic. A mild, dull headache may persist.

The length and intensity of these phases can occur to different degrees in different people. Sometimes, a phase gets skipped, and a migraine attack may occur without causing a headache.