Tension headaches and migraines are two of the most common types of headaches. While they may seem similar, they are actually quite different. Tension headaches are usually caused by stress, worry, or tiredness and cause the muscles of the scalp, neck, and jaw to tighten, resulting in a dull pain that occurs on both sides of the head. Migraines, on the other hand, are characterized by severe throbbing or pulsating pain that occurs only on one side or worsens on one side.
They can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, feeling dizzy, blurred vision, and intense sensitivity to light, noise, or smells. Tension headaches can be hard to distinguish from migraines and if you have frequent episodic tension headaches, you may also have migraines. The main difference between these two types of headache is the severity and location of the pain. A tension headache is likely to be mild and easily treated with an NSAID; a migraine or cluster headache is more severe and bothersome.
Treatment also varies for each person; prescription remedies may be required to resolve cluster headaches and migraines, but not necessarily tension headaches. Although many people describe all moderate to severe headaches as “migraine”, there are specific criteria that are used to identify migraine, tension, and other less common varieties of headache. If you experience a headache that is very different in quality or severity than your usual headaches, or that is associated with unusual symptoms or is associated with an elevated temperature, you need immediate medical evaluation to exclude serious underlying causes. If tension headaches are life-altering or if you need to take medicine for headaches more than twice a week, see your doctor.
Managing a tension headache is often a balance between practicing healthy habits, finding effective non-drug treatments, and using medicines appropriately. Learning more about the different types of headaches can help you take the right steps to resolve the pain you feel and know when to seek medical help. Medication overuse headaches occur when a person takes too many medications to treat a primary headache. In conclusion, although migraines and tension headaches are both types of headaches, they are more different than they are similar.
Tension headaches are usually mild and easily treated with an NSAID while migraines can cause severe throbbing or pulsating pain that lasts from a few hours to several days. Migraine can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, feeling dizzy, blurred vision, and intense sensitivity to light, noise, or smells. If you experience headaches of any kind regularly, seeking medical help can help you find relief.