Difference between migraine and headache

Both migraines and headaches cause pain, but they are distinct conditions with different symptoms, causes, and treatments. Here are the key differences between the two:

  • Definition:
  • Headache: A general term for pain in any region of the head or neck. It can be due to a variety of causes, from tension to sinus issues to dehydration and beyond.
    • Migraine: A type of headache that comes with a specific set of symptoms. Migraines are thought to be a result of changes in the brain and surrounding blood vessels.
  • Symptoms:
  • Headache:
  • Pain can be sharp, dull, throbbing, or aching.
    • Pain is usually felt on both sides of the head.
    • Rarely accompanied by other symptoms.
  • Migraine:
  • Moderate to severe pain, often described as pounding or throbbing.
    • Pain typically affects one side of the head but can affect both.
    • Can be accompanied by other symptoms such as:
  • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Sensitivity to light, sound, or smells.
    • Visual disturbances or “auras” (e.g., flashing lights, blind spots).
    • Tingling or numbness in the limbs.
    • Dizziness.
    • Fatigue.
  • Duration:
  • Headache: Can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week.
    • Migraine: Usually lasts from 4 hours up to 72 hours if untreated.
  • Triggers:
  • Headache:
  • Stress or tension.
    • Lack of sleep.
    • Eye strain.
    • Dehydration.
    • Certain foods or drinks.
  • Migraine:
  • Many of the same triggers as other headaches, but also:
  • Hormonal changes in women.
    • Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine.
    • Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal.
    • Weather changes.
    • Sensory overstimulation.
    • Some medications.
  • Treatment:
  • Headache: Over-the-counter pain relievers (like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen), rest, hydration, and addressing the underlying cause.
    • Migraine: There are both preventive medications (to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines) and acute treatments (to relieve symptoms once they’ve started). This includes over-the-counter pain relievers, triptans, anti-nausea medications, and sometimes preventive medications like beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, and Botox injections.
  • Prevention:
  • Headache: Avoiding known triggers, managing stress, staying hydrated, regular sleep, and physical activity can help prevent many types of headaches.
    • Migraine: Identifying and avoiding triggers, maintaining a consistent routine, and possibly taking preventive medications.
  • Frequency:
  • Headache: Can be occasional or frequent, depending on the type and cause.
    • Migraine: The frequency can vary. Some people may experience migraines once or twice a year, while others might have them several times a month.
  • Diagnosis:
  • Headache: Usually diagnosed based on symptoms and excluding other causes.
    • Migraine: Diagnosed based on clinical criteria, including specific types of pain, duration, associated symptoms, and the presence or absence of an aura.
  1. Associated Conditions:
  • Migraine: People with migraines may also have a higher risk of other conditions like stroke, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

While the distinctions above help differentiate general headaches from migraines, it’s essential to note that there are many types of headaches, each with its characteristics. It’s always a good idea to see a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing severe or frequent headaches or migraines to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Massage for migraine and headache

Massage can offer potential benefits for individuals suffering from migraines and headaches. Let’s talk about the benefits of Swedish massage and deep tissue massage for them.

1. Swedish Massage:

  • Description:
  • Known for its relaxing nature, Swedish massage is a whole-body therapeutic massage treatment that works the soft tissues and muscles to help restore health – creating a calming and balancing effect on the nervous system.
  • Techniques:
  • Effleurage: Long gliding strokes.
    • Petrissage: Muscle kneading and rolling.
    • Tapotement: Rhythmic tapping.
    • Friction: Cross-fiber or with-fiber strokes.
    • Vibration/Shaking: Rapid muscle shaking.
  • Benefits for Migraine and Headache:
  • Relaxation and Stress Relief: Given that stress is a common trigger for tension headaches and migraines, the relaxation provided by Swedish massage can be beneficial.
    • Improved Circulation: The massage can boost blood flow, which might assist in alleviating headache symptoms.
    • Reduced Muscle Tension: Relieving tension in the neck, shoulders, and back can reduce the strain and pressure that often leads to tension headaches.

2. Deep Tissue Massage:

  • Description:
  • As previously mentioned, deep tissue massage applies firm pressure and slow strokes to reach deeper layers of muscle and fascia. It’s particularly beneficial for chronic aches and pains.
  • Techniques:
  • Stripping: Deep, gliding pressure along the length of the muscle fibers using the elbow, forearm, knuckles, or thumbs.
    • Friction: Pressure applied across the grain of a muscle to release adhesions and realign tissue fibers.
  • Benefits for Migraine and Headache:
  • Muscle Tension Relief: Deep tissue massage can help alleviate the muscle tightness frequently linked to tension headaches, particularly in the neck and shoulders.
    • Increased Blood Flow: Enhanced circulation can assist in reducing migraine and headache pain.
    • Release of Toxins: Although more anecdotal, some believe that this type of massage can help dispel toxins from the muscles, which may assist in headache relief.


  • Both Swedish and deep tissue massage can be beneficial for those with migraines and headaches, but the most effective approach often depends on the individual’s specific needs and preferences.
  • It’s crucial to discuss your symptoms, triggers, and desired outcomes with your massage therapist to ensure the most effective treatment.
  • Always check with a healthcare professional before trying new treatments to ensure they’re suitable for your specific circumstances.
  • As with any treatment, individual responses can vary. While many find relief through massage, others may not experience the same benefits or might need a combination of treatments to achieve the desired outcome.