We’ve all been there: a tough day at work, stuck in traffic, or even out of nowhere – you get a headache. But is it a migraine? A tension headache? What’s the difference?
Tension headaches are the most common – 90% of headaches fall into this category, and up to 78% of Americans suffer from them at some point in their lives. With a tension headache, there’s pain on both sides of your head, with tight pressure rather than throbbing. There can also be soreness in the temples or tightness in the neck and shoulders. The pain is less severe than with a migraine. Tension headaches are often caused by stress or fatigue, causing your scalp, neck and jaw to tighten and lead to pain. Treatment for occasional headaches includes over-the-counter pain medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Caffeine can also help. For chronic tension headaches, see your doctor for long-term treatment options.
Migraines are less common – about 14% of Americans suffer from them. Migraines cause moderate to severe throbbing pain that may be worse on one side of the head. The pain gets worse with more activity, and lying down may help. Pain may occur around the eyes, temples, face, jaw or neck. They also cause sensitivity to light, sound and smells, and you may feel nauseous. Some people also experience visual symptoms like wavy line, dots or flashing lights, and some experience numbness or tingling in the face or arms. The cause of migraines is unknown, but environment and genetics are thought to be factors. Triggers such as certain foods, bright lights or changes in hormone levels can cause them. To avoid migraines, keep track of your triggers and try and avoid them. Note what you’ve eaten, how much you’ve slept, the weather and other factors when you have a migraine and see if you can spot a pattern. There are over-the-counter migraine medications, as well as prescriptions you can get from your doctor.
If you’re dealing with headaches, talk to your doctor – relief could be closer than you think!
Content by Lockton Dunning Benefits with info from https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/migraine-vs-tension-headache