June 15, 2017

Migraine or Regular Tension Headache: Do You Know the Difference?

Be Healthy

Headaches are a common complaint, but how can you tell when it’s more than your average head-pounder?

Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. 

Migraines primarily affect people between the ages of 15 and 55, most of whom are women, according to Dr. Mikela Yarawamai, a family medicine physician at the Straub at Pali Momi clinic

Here, Yarawamai sheds some light on migraines and how you can manage the condition. 

How do you tell the difference between a tension headache and a migraine headache?
Migraine pain is typically described as severe throbbing or pulsating pain, and is often located on only one side of the head. The strongest predictors that a headache is a migraine are nausea, severe pain or disability, and light sensitivity. If you have two of the three symptoms, it’s 93 percent likely that you are experiencing a migraine headache. If you have all three, it is 98 percent. (Source Lipton RB et al. Neurology 2003) 


What are some common triggers?
Common triggers are lack of sleep or changes in sleep pattern, missed meals, dehydration, physical or emotional stress, menses or changes in the weather. 


Can diet or other lifestyle factors affect the frequency and intensity of migraines?
If you suffer from migraines, you should monitor your intake of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, as these can increase the frequency of headaches. In addition, eating a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and getting regular aerobic exercise can decrease headache frequency and severity.


What are the latest treatments for chronic migraines?
We define “chronic migraine” as some type of headache that occurs on more than 15 days a month for at least three months. There are numerous treatments for chronic migraines. Some medications help to stop the migraine right away, and others are used to prevent the frequency of migraines each month. The latest treatment is Botox® (onabotulinumtoxinA), which was approved by the FDA in 2010 for treatment of chronic migraines. Botox® helps to reduce pain messages sent to the brain from both muscles and peripheral sensory nerves.


For women who are pregnant, what are some ways they can manage migraines without medication?
Due to hormonal changes, women with a previous history of migraines may experience a change in their headache pattern with pregnancy.
There are several vitamins and supplements that have been shown to help decrease headache frequency and severity. For pregnant women who continue to have headaches, non-medication treatments such as biofeedback and active relaxation techniques can also be helpful.
Before trying any of these options, pregnant women should check with their doctor.