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How Do Migraines and Tension Headaches Compare?

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There is a distinct difference between a regular headache and a migraine headache. Understanding the difference between the two is essential because they are treated differently depending on their severity. Migraines are a more severe condition. If you suffer migraine attacks, let your physician know about your symptoms. Depending on the severity of your headaches, you may need prescription medication as part of your treatment. This article will discuss the differences between the two most common forms of primary headaches: tension headaches and migraine. 

What is a tension headache?

Tension headaches are an extremely common form of headache. They are nicknamed ‘hatbands’ because of the kind of pain and discomfort they cause. You may feel as if you are wearing a tight hat or bandana around your head. You can feel discomfort in your forehead, temples, and the back of your skull. They are called tension headaches because you feel physical tension in these areas. You can have a tension headache at the same time as a migraine. Tension headaches can be triggered by stress.

What is a migraine?

Tension headaches and migraines are both forms of primary headaches. However, migraines are more severe. Symptoms of migraines include nausea, vomiting, a pounding sensation, light sensitivity, and sound sensitivity. You can experience a migraine headache from between four to seventy-two hours long. It is important to note that they can last longer than three days in extreme cases. Migraines are entirely debilitating. This is one of the main differences between migraines and tension headaches. Many people learn how to cope with tension headaches and continue their day as usual. People with migraines typically have to lie down in a dark room and block sound until the migraine passes.

Millions of people deal with tension headaches, but only 12% of Americans suffer from migraine headaches. Those who suffer from migraines typically discover they have a familial history of them. Women and those who suffer from mental health are statistically at a higher risk for developing migraine headaches. 

Prevention is the best treatment 

The biggest tip we have for combating headaches is preventing them from ever popping up in the first place. There are many ways to prevent headaches. If you already live a healthy lifestyle that includes a good balance of exercise and a healthy diet, you may feel what else I can do. Here are two significant tips for preventing any headaches from surfacing. 

Our first prevention tip is to set up a proper sleep schedule. You can do many things to help get a good night’s rest. If you struggle with falling asleep at night, start by turning off all electronics 30 minutes before bedtime, as blue light can interfere with sleep. Another thing you can try is taking a hot bath before bed. When you dry off and your body temperature cools after a hot bath, the temperature change relaxes the body and signals to the brain that it is time for bed. 

Another piece of advice is to read before bed and listen to relaxing music. This will relax your mind and body, allowing you to drift off. Receiving the proper sleep each night is crucial for your overall well-being and health. It should be no surprise that a consistent sleep schedule can prevent future migraines. A study in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2016 found a link between lack of sleep and migraines. Therefore, getting a proper eight hours of recommended sleep each night is essential to prevent your migraines from getting worse. 

Our second prevention tip is to look into specific over-the-counter supplements. Specifically for treating migraines, you can use CoQ10. Many CoQ10 benefits can help you prevent future migraines. Taking CoQ10 supplements helps boost your energy. One of the first things they teach you in Biology is that mitochondria are the cell’s powerhouse. This is where your body produces energy. CoQ10 is so beneficial because it is a nutrient found in the mitochondria.

Furthermore, Research shows that CoQ10 can help prevent migraine attacks. This is because CoQ10 is an essential nutrient that lives in the mitochondria within each cell of your body.  The production of energy is essential for your health. A recent 2019 study shows that patients who took 100mg of CoQ10 three times a day had few migraines over three months. Incredibly, patients who followed this regime had fewer days where they had migraine symptoms, including less nausea. This is a massive breakthrough in treating migraines. A huge part of treatment is simply prevention. 

Simple solutions 

Any form of headache can hinder your performance in daily tasks. They can affect the quality of both your work and personal life. While prevention is the best way to lessen the effects of headaches, there are a few things you can do when you experience them. You can take over-the-counter medications such as Aleve, Tylenol, or Excedrin for migraine. You can also implement massage therapy. Get a facial massage oil, and you can physically massage the tension in your face and scalp. You can look up instruction videos on proper massage techniques. This will help you alleviate pain at the moment. Remember, if you suffer from headaches, frequently inform your doctor of your symptoms so they can provide you with the best treatment possible.


Zuella Montemayor did her degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.                  

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