The Difference Between a Migraine & a Headache

Jun 15, 2022 | Lab Testing, Migraines, Root Causes, Symptoms

A migraine is more than a bad headache. It’s a neurological condition that affects your entire body. It can make you sensitive to light, smells, sounds, and movement. You might experience dizziness, stomach pain, brain fog, nausea, and vomiting. Migraines can even affect your eyesight and speech.

It’s estimated that over 18% of women in the United States experience migraines. That’s three times more women than men. Migraines are painful, debilitating, and often a sign that the body is under a lot of stress.

I’ve had my fair (or not so fair) share of migraines over the years. I dealt with them for close to 25 years. I took 3 different medications to help prevent and combat them. For over a decade, I had 3-5 per week. And in 2010, I had one migraine that wouldn’t let up for over a year.

However, now it’s been years since I had a migraine. I don’t take medications and I no longer have that constant underlying angst of wondering when the next one will hit.

If you suffer from migraines, especially chronic migraines, I understand what you’re going through, and I promise you it doesn’t have to be this way.

But to better understand how you can eliminate migraines, we need to understand what happens during a migraine and how specific changes in our environment can trigger migraines.

The Difference Between a Migraine and Headache

Many people confuse migraines for headaches and vice versa. The most significant difference between the two is that symptoms of a headache, while distracting and uncomfortable, are not as debilitating as a migraine.

Pain in headaches is also limited to the head and can be caused by looking at a screen for too long, having tension in the neck and shoulder due to injury or poor posture, allergies, or being dehydrated. Usually, once the trigger is removed, the headache dissipates.

Headaches can also be treated with over-the-counter pain medication, an ice pack, or for some people smelling peppermint essential oils.

Migraines, on the other hand, rarely respond to these treatments.

Symptoms Unique to Migraines

Migraine symptoms go beyond pain in the head and neck area. The pain and discomfort affect the entire body and become so debilitating that daily functions become impossible. Even sleeping doesn’t come easy. Some of the most common migraine symptoms include:

  • Pain around the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Experiencing an “aura” (seeing stars, colored spots, or flashes of light or having tunnel vision)
  • Tingling sensations in the hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Pain on one side of the head

Another one that was very common for me and for clients of mine – feeling like your nerves hurt.

Having a migraine is a whole-body experience which explains why they impact our daily lives to such an extent. But what’s causing the migraine in the first place?

The Science Behind Migraines

There are many theories behind why some people are more susceptible to migraines than others. Some believe that migraines are genetic, while others blame them on stress or diet.

While all of those factors play a role in migraines, let’s break down what’s happening to your body when you get a migraine.

A migraine is a neurological condition caused by issues in your brain and the nerves throughout your body, especially your spinal cord.

The nerves in your body serve as sensors to collect information about your surroundings. Our nerve cells relay this information to our brains by passing it on from one end of the nerve cell to the other traveling through ion channels or passageways.

Chemicals called neurotransmitters transfer the information to the nerve centers in the brain all the way to the brain stem controlling your sleep, heart rate, and breathing.

When this communication system doesn’t function properly (usually due to gene mutations), it becomes hypersensitive to changes in your environment, leading to painful, even sickening, migraines.

In a way, migraines can be hereditary. The mutations in our genes can make us more prone to migraines. However, that isn’t the whole story.

Migraines don’t just happen because we’re born with a gene that allows them to happen. Migraines occur when those genes interact with our environment and react to certain stimuli. These interactions cause painful neurochemicals to be produced, not the genes themselves that cause migraines.

Identifying the Cause(s) of Your Migraines

The key factor in most migraines is that your body is going through some sort of change both externally and internally. These changes can be as simple as a drop in blood sugar or fluctuations in hormones.

Usually, though, it’s not these changes alone that trigger your migraine. We all experience changes in our blood sugar levels and hormone levels every day, yet not all of us get a migraine every time it happens. So what’s going on?

The Migraine Threshold Theory

I like to think of the body like a bucket. We all start with a certain size bucket, and perhaps our genes dictate the size of it.

Inside the bucket are our stressors. We all havesome form of stress – work stress, too much to do stress, relationship stress, the stress of not getting enough sleep, etc. And that raises the level of the water in the bucket.

And then there are other forms of stress – the hidden stressors that could also be filling the bucket, such as:

  • eating foods your body can’t digest or ones we have sensitivities to
  • environmental pollution
  • mold exposure
  • gut infections – like H.Pylori, parasites, bacteria, and candida
  • mineral imbalances
  • hormone imbalances
  • heavy metals
  • congested liver

Combine those with getting a poor night of sleep, a period starting and the fluctuation in hormones that comes with that, a blood sugar drop due to eating sweets or skipping meals – and that might just be enough to make the bucket spill over – aka – a migraine beginning.

This is also why it’s always so hard to pinpoint specific triggers and why sometimes something triggers a migraine and other times it doesn’t.

The key to eliminating your migraines is eliminating your stressors, lowering the amount that’s in the bucket so it stops spilling over, and bringing your body back to a safe place.

For most women I work with, that means avoiding pollutants in their food and environment, identifying and removing food sensitivities, healing gut infections and mold, rebalancing hormones, and cutting back on daily stress in life, whether internal or external.

It’s Not All in Your Head

Migraines are not headaches. They are much more than that. They affect your entire body, and the health of your whole body contributes to the severity and occurrence of your migraines.

If you experience migraines, it is nothing to ignore. Your migraines are a sign that you are overfilling your stress bucket and that something more is going on in your body. The best way to identify your triggers and stop migraines altogether is to get proper testing.

When you sign up for the Root Cause Method, you’ll gain access to hormone, gut pathogen, food sensitivity, mold exposure, and metabolic function testing that will give you the information you need to find relief from migraines for good. Book a complimentary call today to learn more!

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