Difference Between Migraines and Headaches - Seven Main Differences

Most of us have had a headache before, and will have it every now and then for the rest of our lives. These “normal” headaches are usually the most common type of headache – the tension headache. Tension-type headaches are not the same as migraines, but why? Express.de spoke to Hannah Braye, nutrition therapist at Bio-Kult, to find out the difference between migraines and headaches.

There are more than 300 different types of headache, which can be divided into primary headache and secondary headache.

In addition to cluster headaches, tension headaches and migraines are both types of primary headache.

Almost 80 percent of the population will have tension-type headaches at some point in their life.

Migraines are less common, but still affect about 15 percent (one in seven) of people and can be incredibly debilitating.

While most people confuse these headaches, it is very important to recognize the differences between the two so that the most appropriate treatment can be sought.

Here are the seven differences between migraines and tension types so you can find out which type you’re suffering from.

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Localization of pain

Another distinguishing feature between migraines and tension headaches is the pain localization.

Hannah explained, “Typically, migraines have unilateral pain (on one side of the head), while tension headaches typically start in the back of the head or in the forehead and spread over the entire head.”

Other symptoms

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between migraines and other headaches is that migraineurs often experience symptoms other than headache.

Hannah added, “For example, many migraineurs also experience nausea, vomiting, digestive problems, and sensitivity to light, noise, movement, and smell during seizures.”

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Headaches are actually just one stage of migraines – many sufferers also experience a prodrome up to 24 hours before an attack.

Hannah said, “A prodrome includes symptoms such as sensitivity, irritability, cravings, or difficulty concentrating, and these symptoms are warning signs that a migraine is coming.”

Just before a migraine headache, around 10 to 30 percent of migraine sufferers also experience an aura.

Hannah described an aura as “a range of neurological symptoms that can include visual disturbances, numbness, tingling or weakness, impaired speech, and changes in memory”.

She said, “The phenomenon is unique to migraines and will not occur in those who have other types of headache.

After the migraine headache comes the postdrome phase, in which those affected often report feelings of exhaustion, exhaustion or depression.

Hannah said, “Those who suffer from tension headaches don’t usually go through such distinct phases.”


Tension-type headaches and migraines have a different pathogenesis, which is the way it develops.

Migraines involve activation of the trigeminal nerve (an important pathway to pain in the brain).

Hannah said, “This is believed to lead to the release of vasodilators, which trigger pain responses and an inflammatory cascade of events.

“Tension headaches, on the other hand, are usually caused by tension in the muscles of the face, neck or scalp, which leads to pinching of the nerve or its blood supply, which leads to a feeling of pain or pressure.”



The triggers or things that cause the two types of headache are different.

Hannah said, “Tension-type headaches are often the result of stress, poor posture, dehydration, or drug reactions.

“While stress and medication can also trigger migraines in some, sufferers tend to have a wider range of triggers that vary from individual to individual.

“For example, certain smells, temperature fluctuations, sleep deprivation, skipping meals, certain foods, alcohol or caffeine.”

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but possible triggers include hormonal, emotional, physical, nutritional, environmental, and medical factors, according to the NHS.

Hannah added, “It is believed that magnesium deficiency could contribute to both migraines and headaches, and in women, hormonal fluctuations can also play a role in both types of headache. “

Participation of the good

Recent research on migraines has shown that gut health can play a key role in the development of migraines and that dietary supplements containing live bacteria can be beneficial in the condition.

The hyperpermeability of the gut, also known as leaky gut, caused by low levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut, is a driver of inflammation throughout the body.

Hannah said, “It is now believed that inflammatory molecules derived from the gut can sensitize pain receptors on the trigeminal nerve and trigger the inflammatory cascade that leads to migraines.

“In a recent clinical study, it was found that the 14 live bacterial strains in Bio-Kult Migréa, when taken daily, significantly reduce the severity and frequency of migraines in just eight to ten weeks.

“We are only just discovering the important role the gut microbiota plays in many aspects of health, so there is a possibility that the gut may play a role in other types of headache.

“However, the best evidence of this is currently the migraines. “

Bio-Kult Migréa is a multifunctional food supplement with live bacteria that contains 14 different strains as well as magnesium and vitamin B6, both of which contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system and to the reduction of tiredness and exhaustion (€ 19.94 from www.bio-kult.com) Vitamin B6 also helps regulate hormonal activity.