Migraine Quiz

How to Know If Your Headache Is a Migraine?

The question of whether a headache is a migraine may seem obvious if you are an experienced migraine sufferer, but not everyone knows this stuff inside out. There is still confusion out there, and it’s always worth reviewing. Some people, for example, think that a migraine is defined by how bad the headache is. While a migraine is defined by moderate or severe pain, among other things, it does require other features to be a migraine headache and is not just a severe headache. And there are other types of severe headache that are not migraines.

Eight Ways to Tell if a Headache is a Migraine

  • If your headache is one-sided, it is more likely to be a migraine.
  • Migraine pain is generally moderate or severe.
  • Most migraine pain is pounding or a throbbing sensation in head.
  • Migraine pain is often made worse by routine physical activity.
  • If you have nausea or vomiting with your headache, it is more likely to be a migraine.
  • If bright light or noises bother you during a headache or make your pain worse, it is likely that your headache is a migraine.
  • If your headache is preceded by an aura—a warning phase with flashing lights, colored shapes, lines, blind spots or any other kind of neurologic symptom like numbness, your headache is a migraine.
  • If you have headache at the back of the neck, it can still be a migraine, as long as you have other migraine symptoms. Neck pain associated with migraine is actually more common than nausea in migraine attacks.

What is harder for people is how to tell headache types apart when you happen to suffer from more than one kind of headache. It's important to know which one is a migraine so you can take the right medication. If you only get so many migraine medications a month, you don’t want to “waste” one on a headache that isn’t a migraine. Plus, taking these too often can lead to more headaches.

It's not always easy to tell various headaches apart, as they may start out the same.  Remember, too, that not every migraine attack is going to be exactly the same. But keeping a headache diary can help you begin to sort your own headaches out, and this can help you and your physician figure out what is going on.