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Migraines: Symptoms, Causes, & Relief

Migraines: Symptoms, Causes, & Relief

Dec. 22nd, 2021

Migraines are the third most common illness in the world and they affect millions of people in the United States.1

Here are some facts about migraines, the symptoms, and some tips to help relieve migraine pain.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is a strong headache that lasts anywhere from 4 to 72 hours and is oftentimes recurring.2 A migraine is known as a primary headache, which means that it is not caused by another medical condition.3

The pain can be anywhere from moderate to severe, and it is usually on one side of the head. Some migraine attacks can be severe and disable a person from working or functioning normally. Migraines are not only an extremely painful headache, but they can also cause nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.4

Migraine vs. a headache

Learning the difference between different types of headaches and a migraine can be beneficial to know what kind of treatment will work best for you.

A headache is pain, pressure, or aching that occurs on both sides of the head. A headache can last for 30 minutes or as long as a week.5

The most common headache that people have is a tension headache, which is usually caused by stress or a muscle strain. Other types of headaches include sinus headaches and cluster headaches.

A migraine is a severe headache that also comes with symptoms other than pain in the head, such as nausea. It’s known as a neurological disease with neurological symptoms such as an aura.

An aura is a sensation that people may experience before the migraine that causes visual disturbances as well as numbness and confusion.6

What Causes a Migraine?

There is not one specific cause for migraines, and with it being a primary headache, we know it is not caused by another medical condition. Some researchers believe they may be genetic, but there is still ongoing research to determine a cause.

There are many different factors that can trigger a migraine.2 Some of these include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain medicines
  • Irregular sleep
  • Overexertion
  • Loud noises
  • Bright lights

Symptoms of a Migraine

When experiencing a migraine, there are 4 stages that an individual will go through during this time.3 Here are the different stages and the symptoms that people may experience during each one.7


This stage can last a few hours or a few days. People may not even notice or realize they’re in this stage, as it occurs before the headache and may not cause any symptoms.

There are a few subtle warnings of a migraine:

  • Food cravings
  • Constipation
  • Fluid retention
  • Mood swings


Most people do not experience an aura phase, but if they do, it usually lasts anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. An aura is a sensory, motor, or speech symptom.

Some of these symptoms of the aura stage include:

  • Flashing dots
  • Tingling skin
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Changes in smell or taste


This is the stage where people experience the migraine headache. This stage can last anywhere from 4 hours to 72 hours.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Pain on one side of the head
  • Throbbing
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Nausea or vomiting


This is known as a “migraine hangover” and can last up to two days.

Some of the symptoms of this stage include:

  • Feeling drained or tired
  • Confusion
  • Sudden movement causing head pain

How to Relieve Migraine Pain

There is no cure for migraines. However, there are some ways to help relieve migraine pain and reduce the attacks you have once you’re aware of the triggers.

Here are some tips to help relieve migraine pain.8

  • Rest. Take some time to rest in a quiet and dark space. Light and sound may irritate or make headaches worse.
  • Sleep. Not only is resting important when you feel a migraine coming on, but sleep is critical to staying healthy and fighting migraines. Try to create a balanced sleep pattern where you get enough sleep each night. One way to do this is to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.9
  • Warm or cold compress. Try either a warm or cold compress on your forehead or back of the neck and see which works best for you. A cold compress will have a numbing effect which can distract your brain from the migraine. A warm compress can help relax the muscles.
  • Diet. What you eat or don’t eat can cause migraines. Try to eat a healthy diet and avoid skipping meals. If you notice a certain food triggers your migraines, avoid eating that food.10
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a common trigger for migraines and many other health concerns. Drink plenty of water to avoid a severe headache. Another way to stay hydrated is to eat foods that have a high water content such as fruits and vegetables.11
  • Exercise. Physical activity is great for your overall health and can even help alleviate the symptoms of migraines. During exercise, the body releases chemicals that block pain signals to the brain.10
  • Manage stress. Stress is one of the most common causes of migraines. Although not all stress is avoidable, attempting to better manage your stress can help prevent migraines. Some ways you can manage stress include setting a schedule, getting enough sleep, and participating in hobbies.12
  • Medication. Medicine may help in some cases depending on the person and severity. However, simple lifestyle choices are the main step to help relieve migraine pain. If you want to learn more about medication for migraines, talk with your doctor.

When to See a Doctor

Trying to determine if you’re experiencing migraines or really bad headaches can be difficult. However, seeking help from a medical professional can give you clarity and help you learn more if you have frequent headaches.

If you believe you’re experiencing migraines, try to keep a journal of your headaches for a while. Document each occurrence with the symptoms, any possible triggers, and the duration of the headache.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with migraines and you cannot find any relief from natural remedies or your symptoms continue to worsen, it may be time to visit your doctor again.

If you notice any visual disturbance, loss of sensation, or have difficulty speaking, seek immediate help.13

Learn More about Migraines

If you or a loved one experience migraines, we encourage you to learn more about possible triggers and how to relieve migraine pain. Migraines can interfere with your everyday life if left untreated, and there are steps you can begin taking to help relieve the pain.

To learn more about Saber Healthcare and the services we provide, click here.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.


  1. “About Migraine.” Migraine Research Foundation, Accessed December 14th, 2021.
  2. “Migraine.” National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. Accessed December 13th, 2021.
  3. “Migraine Headaches.” Cleveland Clinic, March 3rd, 2021. Accessed December 14th, 2021.
  4. Ratini, Melinda. “What Is Migraine?” WebMD, July 18th, 2020. Accessed December 13th, 2021.
  5. Nall, Rachel. “What’s the Difference Between Migraine and Headaches?” Healthline Media, August 10th, 2020. Accessed December 15th, 2021.
  6. “Migraine headaches.” The Johns Hopkins University, Accessed December 16th, 2021.
  7. “Migraine.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. July 2nd, 2021. Accessed December 15th, 2021.
  8. Orenstein, Beth. “7 Tips to Ease Migraine Pain.” Everyday Health, September 2nd, 2021. Accessed December 13th, 2021.
  9. “Tired? 6 Ways to Get More Rest at Night.” Saber Healthcare Group, November 22nd, 2020. Accessed December 15th, 2021.
  10. “Migraine.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. July 2nd, 2021. Accessed December 15th, 2021.
  11. “How Hydration Affects Your Health.” Saber Healthcare Group, April 17th, 2021. Accessed December 15th, 2021.
  12. “How to Manage Stress and Relax More.” Saber Healthcare Group, December 2nd, 2020. Accessed December 15th, 2021.
  13. Webberley, Helen. “Everything you need to know about migraine.” Healthline Media, Medical News Today. August 5th, 2021. Accessed December 14th, 2021.