Headaches vs. Chronic Migraines: What’s the Difference?

January 29, 2021

We all know the feeling of a pesky headache.

It can be a dull, aching pain focused in one area, or a sensation of pressure around the entire head. Nearly everyone experiences a headache occasionally, whether it be brought on by stress, dehydration, or other causes, but the pain of a headache is typically manageable and short-lived. Chronic migraine, on the other hand, is a debilitating condition that approximately 5% of Americans live with. It is important to know the key differences between a headache and a migraine when seeking out effective treatment for yourself or a loved one.

Pain and Symptoms

A migraine presents itself quite differently than a headache. The pain of a migraine typically affects just one side of the head, and those who suffer from migraines often describe the condition as an intense throbbing pain. In addition to head pain, migraines can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, pain behind the eye or ear, and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people notice changes in vision during an episode, ranging from seeing spots or flashing lights to even temporary vision loss. The symptoms associated with chronic migraine can be so severe that the condition disrupts everyday tasks, whereas a headache is typically just a nuisance.


It is not uncommon for people to experience a tension headache every now and then, but frequency is a key factor in the diagnosis of chronic migraine. Generally, a person must have experienced migraine symptoms for at least 15 days in a single month to be diagnosed with chronic migraine. Episodes of chronic migraine tend to last for more than four hours at a time.


Over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can usually take care of a headache in no time, but chronic migraines usually don’t go away so easily.  If over-the-counter medications don’t provide relief, prescription drugs aimed at either prevention or treatment may help and are often recommended by health professionals. Other effective forms of treatment have been proven to treat chronic migraine as well, including Botox. Home remedies may provide some relief, too, such as laying down in a dark room, maintaining proper hydration, and applying a hot or cold compress to the forehead or back of the neck.

Join a Chronic Migraine Clinical Trial with BTC of New Bedford

If you are living with chronic migraine and seeking relief from your condition, learn more today about participating in a clinical trial with BTC of New Bedford. You may be eligible to receive treatment at no cost to you and contribute to the advancement of medical research!