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Migraines and headaches present very different symptoms. But actually there are more than 300 different types of headaches and migraines. So this begs the question: What is the difference between migraine and a headache?

A migraine can include throbbing pain in one area of your head, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea or vomiting and sometimes even changes in vision. So if you’ve got a migraine, don’t worry, there are plenty of treatments available to both ease the pain when migraine strike, but also preventative treatments, such as those offered by Sydney Headache and Migraine Clinic.

There are over 7 million tension-type headache sufferers in Australia, and over 4 million Migraine sufferers! Between these two conditions, they make up one of the most prevalent and debilitating health conditions in the country. However, despite how common these two conditions are, not many people understand the difference between the two. Understanding the key differences between headache and migraine is an important step on the way to finding the ideal treatment plan for you!

While both headache and migraine are common causes of head pain, there are multiple key differences that make them very different experiences for our patients. The key differences being; the type of pain and sensation, intensity of the symptoms, and the different associated symptoms experienced during an attack.

Migraines are generally more intense

One of the main differences that our patients describe is:


  • Pain – moderate to serve
  • Patient rate – 7/10 or higher

Headache (tension-type headaches)

  • Pain – mild to moderate
  • Patient rate – 3-6/10

Migraines can have a wide range of symptoms

Migraines are severe headaches that can be accompanied by a number of other symptoms. Migraine headache pain can be described as throbbing or pulsating in one area and usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours if untreated. Symptoms beyond the migraine headache vary, but often include sensitivity to sound and light, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and dizziness. It is important to note that migraine symptoms often differ from person to person and may even change for the same individual over time.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish migraine headaches from other types of headaches. The most common distinguishing factor is migraine pain tends to present itself on one side of the head more than the other whereas tension-type headaches tend to effect both sides equally.

While head pain is often a common symptom, migraines are actually a neurological event that can include a wide range of different symptoms (and don’t even have to include head pain!). Commonly, sufferers of migraines will experience aura, nausea, vomiting, vertigo or dizziness, and sensitivity to light/sound/smell.

Tension-type headaches sufferers can experience some nausea and sensitivity to light or sound, but it is uncommon for them to experience many other symptoms.

The misconceptions and misunderstandings between headaches & migraines can cause a lot of concern for sufferers, as people can under-estimate what a sufferer is really experiencing. Often, even health professionals can mis-interpret the symptoms you are experiencing, leading to poor management or a general lack of empathy. Having your symptoms assessed by a health professional who understands both headaches & migraines and treats both every day is essential! Correct diagnosis can help identify the best possible treatment plan for you.

Give us a call, leave an enquiry or book online today, to see one of our experienced headache clinicians and get started on the journey to a life free from headaches or migraines!