Migraine vs Headache

I’m going to paint a picture for you. It’s 7am on my day off, but realistically I’ve been awake for hours after a night of tossing and turning. This may be poorly written, and I will explain why. It all started around lunch time yesterday at work, when I felt some head pain coming on.

Like a good girl, I did exactly what my Neurologist told me to do – on top of my daily treatments, I tried Voltaren first. I waited, and waited, but things were only getting worse. The nausea started to kick in and so I did the next thing my doctor suggested, I took Maxalon for the nausea and Imagran (a specific migraine medication) for the pain. Again, I waited. My head was starting to become blurry and I decided it’s time to take a small break. So, I trudged into the kitchen to make a tea, realising the entire time I was simultaneously trying not to vomit and pass out. It was time for the last resort, the Panadeine Forte.

Yes, Panadeine Forte definately helped the pain, but it didn’t prevent the rest of the symptoms from making my life a living hell. After a couple of hours of medicating and pushing through, I had reached my limit.

Then comes the train home. Again, the entire time I was trying not to vomit, pass out or simply fall asleep from all the pain meds, and that hour long trip suddenly felt like 20 hours.

I then laid in bed for hours in the dark hoping to fall asleep but never quite getting there. Tossing, turning, and generally feeling like I’d drunk 5 bottles of wine to myself and then walked out onto the street and been hit by a truck. Have you ever felt so sick that you can feel it in your entire body and nothing will relieve it, even sleep? Yep, that’s a migraine for you. Every little sound in the house was making my brain vibrate and my eyes feel like they were being poked with ice picks.

Everything hurt, everything felt heavy and ill. It still does.

So why do I HATE when people say they have a migraine when they really have a headache? Because when people who suffer from chronic migraines ACTUALLY have a migraine, everyone else thinks it’s not that big of a deal, that your body hasn’t turned into a volcano waiting to erupt, that a Nurofen or Panadol will ease it so you can get back to work.

No.

Don’t get me wrong, headaches SUCK! But they’re not the same thing. They require different treatment, and they’re often not even close to being as debilitating.

So what’s the difference? According to Healthline.com, hadaches are unpleasant pains in your head that can cause pressure and aching. The pain can range from mild to severe, and they usually occur on both sides of your head. Some specific areas where headaches can occur include the forehead, temples, and back of the neck. A headache can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week. The most common headache type is a tension headache.

What about migraines? Migraines are intense or severe and include other symptoms other than head pain. Such as;

  • nausea
  • pain behind one eye or ear
  • pain in the temples
  • seeing spots or flashing lights
  • sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • temporary vision loss
  • vomiting
  • feeling less mentally alert or having trouble thinking
  • seeing flashing lights or unusual lines
  • feeling tingling or numbness in the face or hands
  • having an unusual sense of smell, taste, or touch.

When compared with a tension headache, migraines are generally a lot more severe and often leave you bedridden. Some people even seek help in emergency. Treatment is complicated and sometimes ineffective, ranging from pain killers to Botox treatment – which I recently found out I qualify early for. Kind of a scary thought since I hate needles, let alone needles in my head!

Basically, comparing a headache to a migraine is akin to comparing a cold to the flu, or being sad to having depression. Not only is it not helpful to everyone else in understanding these conditions, but it’s also vaguely insulting.

Simply put, conditions such as chronic migraines shouldn’t be lessened, they should be shared and understood.

Do you suffer from chronic migraines and keen to share your story? I’d love to hear from you! contactlaura@laurainreallife.blog.

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