Can a mild headache be a migraine?

Migraine headaches can range from mild to severe. People who have a severe migraine headache may need emergency medical treatment. Physical activity and exposure to light, sound, and odors make pain worse. However, people can have migraine episodes without developing a headache.

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsating sensation, usually on one side of the head. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last from hours to days and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities. These got their name because they tend to come in groups for weeks.

An average group can last from 6 to 12 weeks. They usually start hours after you fall asleep. Sometimes, mild pain will warn you that a cluster headache is coming. When people think of a migraine, they usually think of the most severe headache.

But headaches are just a symptom of a migraine and can vary in severity and duration. Migraines are a chronic condition, and the cause is usually unknown. Focusing on exactly where your head hurts and the symptoms that come with it can help you and your doctor determine what type of migraine or headache you have, resulting in a more effective treatment plan and fewer painful days. Cluster headaches are very painful headaches that occur on one side of the head and come in groups.

If a person takes medicine for migraine headache more than 10 days a month, this could cause an effect known as rebound headaches. Sometimes you or your healthcare provider may assume that the pain you feel is a sinus headache or a tension-type headache. Because they occur over such a large area and cause other symptoms, cluster headaches can be the most irritating headaches and are sometimes referred to as “suicidal headaches.” Identifying and treating headaches as early as possible can help a person participate in preventive treatments to minimize the chance of having another headache. If your headaches are severe, occur frequently, or come with other symptoms, talk to your doctor about the type of headache you may have.

The constant nature of chronic daily headaches makes them one of the most disabling headache conditions. Reviewed for accuracy by subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisors from the American Migraine Foundation with in-depth knowledge and training in headache medicine. Experts estimate that nearly half of the adult population experiences headaches and 12% of Americans suffer from migraines. Many patients with chronic migraine also use acute pain relievers for headache for more than 10 to 15 days per month, and this can actually lead to even more frequent headaches.

It is common for this type of headache to require physical therapy in addition to medication or other treatment.