Migraine vs Headache: Identifying and Managing Differences

Comprehending the disparities between migraine and headache is fundamental for proper diagnosis and management. In this blog post, we will delve into the distinctions between migraine headaches and other types of headache disorders, such as tension headaches and cluster headaches.

Migraine attacks can be debilitating, with symptoms that go beyond just head pain. We’ll discuss how to recognize a migraine based on its unique characteristics and warning signs. Additionally, we’ll explore alternative treatments like chiropractic care that may offer relief for both chronic migraines and tension headaches.

Finally, managing migraine symptoms or preventing future headache attacks is essential for maintaining an active lifestyle as a parent. Our tips section will provide valuable insights on strategies you can implement in your daily life to minimize the impact of these painful episodes.

Table of Contents:

1. What is the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine?

As parents, it is essential to understand the key differences between headaches and migraines so you can provide your child with appropriate care and treatment. While both conditions cause pain in the head, they have distinct symptoms, causes, and treatments.


Headaches: A headache typically presents as a dull ache or pressure around the forehead or back of the head. The pain may be mild to moderate in intensity but usually does not interfere significantly with daily activities.

Migraines: On the other hand, migraines are characterized by severe throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head that often worsens with physical activity. Migraines can also be accompanied by additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, dizziness, or lightheadedness.


Headaches: The exact cause of headaches varies depending on their type (tension-type headache being most common). Some possible triggers include stress, poor posture, eye strain from computer use, dehydration, lack of sleep, caffeine withdrawal, hunger, certain foods like chocolate or cheese, and nasal congestion due to colds or allergies.

Migraines: The precise cause of migraines remains unclear but is believed to involve abnormal brain activity affecting nerve signals and blood vessels within the brain. Genetic and environmental factors may also play a role. Common migraine triggers include hormonal changes in women, stress, certain foods or additives, such as aged cheese, red wine, MSG, bright lights, loud noises, and sleep disturbances.


Headaches: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) are often effective for treating mild to moderate headaches. Additionally, relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and gentle stretching can help alleviate tension-type headaches.

Migraines: Migraine treatment typically involves two approaches: acute treatments that provide immediate relief during an attack and preventive measures aimed at reducing the frequency and severity of future attacks. Triptans (e.g., sumatriptan), anti-nausea drugs, and sometimes over-the-counter pain relievers are all acute migraine treatments that can provide immediate relief during an attack. Preventive strategies involve identifying triggers through a headache diary, maintaining regular sleep patterns, staying hydrated, managing stress levels with relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, and making dietary modifications if necessary.

In addition to these conventional treatments, chiropractic care has shown promising results in helping relieve both headache and migraine symptoms in children. In the next section of this blog post, we’ll explore how chiropractic care can benefit your child’s health by addressing the root causes of their head pain.

Migraines, which can be more severe than regular headaches, require proper identification to ensure suitable treatment. Understanding how to identify a migraine can help you seek appropriate treatment for yourself or your child if needed.

Key Takeaway:

Headaches and migraines are two different conditions with distinct symptoms, causes, and treatments. While over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate headaches, acute migraine medications like triptans provide immediate relief during an attack. Chiropractic care has also shown promising results in helping relieve both headache and migraine symptoms by addressing the root causes of head pain.

How to Recognize a Migraine

As a parent, it is essential to be aware of the symptoms associated with migraines in order to ensure your child receives appropriate care and treatment. Unlike regular headaches, migraines can be debilitating and have unique symptoms that set them apart. In this section, we’ll discuss how you can identify if your child is experiencing a migraine headache, as well as some common triggers for migraine attacks.

Symptoms of Migraines

Migraines are more than just severe headaches; they come with their own set of distinct symptoms. Here are some key indicators that your child may be suffering from a migraine:

  • Pain on one side of the head: While tension headaches usually cause pain on both sides, migraines often result in throbbing or pulsating pain on just one side.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Children experiencing migraines might feel nauseous or even vomit during an attack.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound: During a migraine episode, children may become extremely sensitive to bright lights or loud noises.
  • Aura: Some children experience visual disturbances called “aura” before the onset of their migraine. This could include seeing flashing lights, zigzag lines, or temporary blind spots in their vision.

Migraine Triggers

Realizing what might set off migraine episodes in your kid who suffers from chronic migraines is key to preventing future occurrences. Common migraine triggers include:

  • Stress: Emotional stress can lead to tension headaches and migraine attacks in children.
  • Lack of sleep or irregular sleep patterns: Not getting enough rest or having an inconsistent sleep schedule may contribute to the onset of migraines.
  • Dietary factors: Certain foods, such as aged cheeses, processed meats, and caffeine, have been known to trigger migraines in some individuals.
  • Hormonal changes: For girls who have started menstruating, hormonal fluctuations during their menstrual cycle could be a contributing factor for migraine episodes.

If you suspect your child is experiencing a migraine attack, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options. In addition to medical intervention, chiropractic care has shown promising results in providing relief from headache disorders like tension headaches and chronic migraines. For further information on how chiropractic treatment can help alleviate the headache and migraine symptoms your child is experiencing, please read our next section.

By recognizing the signs and symptoms of a migraine, such as nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, fatigue, vision disturbances or aura before the headache begins can help in managing migraines. Chiropractic care has been found to be beneficial for both headaches and migraines by addressing underlying causes through adjustments of the spine.

Key Takeaway:

Parents should be able to identify the signs of a migraine, which can be more severe than regular headaches. Symptoms include pain on one side of the head, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and aura. Common triggers for migraines are stress, lack of sleep or irregular sleep patterns, certain foods like aged cheeses and processed meats as well as hormonal changes in girls who have started menstruating.

3. Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Headaches and Migraines

Are you questioning if there’s a natural approach to aid your kid in alleviating their headaches or migraines? One option worth considering is chiropractic care. This non-invasive treatment can offer several benefits for children dealing with these painful conditions.

A. Reducing Frequency and Intensity of Pain

Chiropractic adjustments can be used to alleviate pain caused by headaches and migraines in children, thereby reducing the frequency and intensity of such discomfort. By realigning the spine, chiropractors are able to alleviate pressure on nerves that may be contributing to head pain.

B. Addressing Underlying Causes

Rather than simply masking symptoms with medication, chiropractic care aims to address the underlying causes of headaches and migraines in children. For example, poor posture or spinal misalignments could be contributing factors that need correcting before lasting relief can be achieved.

C. Improving Overall Health

In addition to directly addressing headache-related issues, regular chiropractic visits can also improve your child’s overall health by promoting proper nervous system function and reducing inflammation throughout their body.

Dietary Changes as Part of Treatment Plan:

  • Magnesium-rich foods: Encourage your child to eat more magnesium-rich foods like spinach, almonds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt or kefir as this mineral has been shown effective in preventing migraine attacks.
  • Foods high in B vitamins: Foods rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), such as whole grains and dairy products have been found to reduce the frequency of migraines in some people.
  • Hydration: Make sure your child is drinking enough water, as dehydration can trigger headaches and migraines.

Lifestyle Changes for Headache Prevention:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Encourage your child to establish a consistent bedtime routine and wake-up time, as irregular sleep patterns can contribute to headache development.
  • Manage stress levels: Teach your child healthy ways to cope with stress, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation techniques. This will help them manage their emotions better and potentially prevent headaches from developing due to stress-related factors.

Chiropractic care can also help with tension headaches, headache disorders, and chronic migraines. By addressing the root cause of the problem, chiropractors can help prevent headache attacks from occurring in the first place.

If your child is experiencing migraine symptoms or other types of headaches, consider scheduling an appointment with a chiropractor to see if this natural treatment option could help.

Chiropractic treatment may provide respite to many with either headaches or migraines. With the right tips and strategies in place, parents who are active can learn how to manage their own or their children’s headaches and migraines more effectively.

Key Takeaway:

Chiropractic care can offer several benefits for children suffering from headaches or migraines, including reducing the frequency and intensity of pain, addressing underlying causes, and improving overall health. Dietary changes such as consuming magnesium-rich foods and maintaining a regular sleep schedule can also help prevent headache attacks.

4. Tips for Managing Headaches and Migraines

As a parent, it’s critical to be equipped with strategies for effectively managing your child’s headaches and migraines. By making some adjustments to their lifestyle, altering their diet, and using alternative treatments, you can assist in decreasing the frequency and intensity of these uncomfortable episodes. Here are some tips that may be helpful:

A. Lifestyle Changes

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Encourage your child to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. A consistent sleep routine can help prevent headaches.
  • Stay active: Regular physical activity is important for overall health, but it can also help reduce headache frequency in children. Encourage your child to engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, as it can help reduce headache frequency.
  • Manage stress: Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or meditation to cope with stress better.
  • Create a calm environment: Make sure your child has a quiet space where they can relax without distractions when experiencing a headache or migraine attack.

B. Diet Modifications

Certain foods may trigger headaches or migraines in children; therefore, identifying these triggers is crucial for effective management. Some common dietary triggers include:

  • Caffeine (found in chocolate, coffee, tea, soda)
  • Alcohol

It’s important to note that migraines and headaches are different conditions, and each requires a specific treatment plan. If your child experiences chronic migraine or headache attacks, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. At Grand Health Chiropractic, we specialize in headache disorders and can provide effective migraine prevention and tension headache relief. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

FAQs in Relation to Migraine vs Headache

What differentiates a headache from a migraine?

A headache is characterized by pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. It can be caused by tension, sinus issues, dehydration, and other factors. Migraines are more severe and involve intense throbbing pain on one side of the head accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound.

Is there a headache worse than a migraine?

Cluster headaches are considered more painful than migraines. They cause sudden and excruciating pain around one eye or temple area that lasts for 15 minutes to 3 hours. These headaches occur in clusters over weeks or months followed by periods of remission.

What are the 3 types of migraines?

The three main types of migraines include:

  1. Migraine without aura (common migraine): Characterized by moderate-to-severe pulsating pain with nausea and sensitivity to light/sound.
  2. Migraine with aura (classic migraine): Preceded by visual disturbances like blind spots or flashing lights before the onset of headache.
  3. Chronic migraine: Occurs at least 15 days per month for three consecutive months causing significant impact on daily activities.

What are the coping mechanisms for migraines?

Coping mechanisms for migraines include:

  • Avoiding triggers such as certain foods, stressors, and lack of sleep.
  • Taking prescribed medications as directed.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.
  • Applying cold packs or warm compresses to the affected area.
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and staying hydrated.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between a headache and a migraine is crucial for effective management. While headaches are generally less severe and respond well to over-the-counter medications, migraines can be debilitating and require specialized treatment. Acknowledging signs of a migraine, for example light or sound sensitivity, queasiness and an incessant pain in one side of the head, can assist you with getting proper treatment.

Chiropractic care is a viable approach for treating headaches and migraines, as it can improve spinal alignment, reduce neck tension, and encourage lifestyle modifications such as stress-reduction techniques. Regular adjustments can improve spinal alignment and reduce tension in the neck muscles that contribute to these conditions. Additionally, making lifestyle changes like reducing stress levels through exercise or meditation may also help alleviate symptoms.

If you’re struggling with migraines or headaches, don’t hesitate to reach out to Grand Health Chiropractic for expert guidance on your condition. Our team of experienced chiropractors can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs. Click here to schedule an appointment!