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We all have probably heard of headaches and migraines. Perhaps we have had a friend tell us, that they suffer from migraines. The two terms seem to be used loosely and interchangeably, with migraines being generally perceived as the more severe variety.

However, did you know that in medical circles, there are over 320 individual types of headaches and migraines? [1]

Diagnosing the most correct medical term is no easy task, even for doctors; but for general purposes, there are some key differences between headaches and migraines.

What are the key differences?

Headaches tend to be limited to some type of head pain, although there is a huge variety wherein these symptoms are present and how they may feel. There is also a huge difference in types of headaches based on what brings it on.

On the other hand, Migraines tend to be having head pain with added symptoms which may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound or smell, dizziness, vertigo, physical fatigue, slow cognition.

Some migraines may also present with an “aura”, which is an onset of sensory disturbances, such as visual blind spots, flashes of light, spots, zig-zags, shapes; or even numbness, tingling, muscle weakness or difficulty speaking. Migraine and Headaches have causes and triggers why you are experiencing it, which you should be aware of.

How can I tell the difference?

If you are having headaches or migraines, simply try to keep track of what you feel, however most of the time it may be obvious. If you are having symptoms other than just head pain, then you may be experiencing a type of migraine.

If you are in doubt, seeking expert advice can not only reduce symptoms but put your mind at ease.

Which is more severe?

Most people associate migraines with being much worse than a headache; however, this is not strictly true. As defined earlier, a Migraine is different from a headache and will usually be quite debilitating, due to the combination of symptoms as well as head pain.

However, some types of headaches, such as Cluster headaches, are also incredibly painful. So, usually, migraines denote a high severity, but some headaches are equally or perhaps even more severe!

When to seek medical attention?

If you are experiencing headaches or migraines, it is best to seek professional advice. In rare cases, headaches or migraines can be linked to more severe medical issues, which should be checked sooner rather than later.

Once these sinister causes are ruled out, treatment can now begin. This can take in many forms and be varied in efficacy.

For an expert diagnosis and highly effective, non-invasive, drug free treatment, please get in contact with us, at the Gold Coast Headache and Migraine Clinic!


The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition (beta version). (2013). Cephalalgia, 33(9), 629–808.