Blog/Tackling Migraine and Tension Headaches
7/24/2023 | 4 min read

Tackling Migraine and Tension Headaches

How to tell the difference and find headache relief

Woman with tension headache or migraine rubbing her head in pain.

Ah headaches, those unwelcome guests that can turn a perfectly fine day into a struggle. And more often than not, it is hard to find anything to relieve the pain. What most people don’t know is that different types of headaches often call for different treatments. 

Migraine and tension headaches are two prevalent types that deserve our attention. Understanding these headache conditions and implementing effective strategies to manage them can improve our overall well-being. 

Migraine headaches

Migraines are neurological disorders characterized by recurring moderate to severe headaches. If you often get a“really bad headache” that makes it hard to focus or look at light—you might have a migraine. They are often accompanied with sensitivity to light, sound, smell or touch. Also, they typically present as pulsating, throbbing pain, predominantly on one side of the head and can cause nausea and visual disturbances. Fun, right? 

A range of factors can trigger migraines, and these triggers can vary from person to person. Common culprits include stress, hormonal fluctuations, certain foods (like chocolate, aged cheese, and processed meats), lack of sleep and changes in weather patterns. Identifying your triggers is instrumental in devising an effective headache management plan. 

Most migraine attacks last about 4 hours and can last as long as a week, and can even put a stop to daily activities. Migraines are a complicated condition and can progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, attack and post-drome.


This stage will occur hours to days before the onset of the actual headache pain. During the prodrome stage, some people may experience subtle warning signs that a migraine is coming. Common prodrome symptoms include:

  • Mood changes

  • Food cravings

  • Neck stiffness

  • Fluid retention

  • Frequent yawning

  • Increased urination

  • Difficulty concentrating or cognitive changes

Aura stage: 

Not everyone who suffers from migraines experiences this stage, but for those who do, an aura typically occurs before or during the headache phase. Migraine aura refers to a temporary neurological phenomenon that often acts as a warning sign that a migraine is coming by creating visual disturbances. Visual aura symptoms may include:

  • Flashes of light

  • Zigzag lines or shimmering lights

  • Blind spots 

Non-visual aura symptoms may include: 

  • Tingling or numbness in body

  • Difficulty speaking 

  • Muscle weakness

Headache stage: 

Here comes the bugger. The headache stage is the most well-known and intense phase of a migraine attack. It is characterized by moderate to severe head pain, often on one side of the head. The pain typically lasts for several hours to days and can include additional symptoms, like throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, increased sensitivity to physical activity and more. 

Postdrome stage: 

The hangover of migraines, the pondrome stage, occurs after the headache has subsided. You may feel foggy, exhausted and mentally fatigued. These symptoms can last for hours or even a couple of days. 

Not all people who suffer from migraines experience all four stages, and the duration and intensity can vary from person to person. There may be a gradual onset of symptoms, while others may experience a sudden and intense headache with no warning signs. Seeking professional guidance and support can help alleviate the fear of the unwarranted pain that happens when dealing with this condition. 

Tension headaches

As the most common type of headache, tension headaches can cause mild, moderate or intense pain behind your eyes and neck. They are often characterized by a dull, aching pain that wraps around the head. Unlike migraines, they do not typically come with the additional symptoms of visual disturbances. However, they still provide a persistent and significant discomfort that can affect one’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, doctors and researchers don’t know what exactly causes tension headaches. However, it is known that muscle contraction can cause tension headaches to occur. These often are a response to stress, depression, head injury or anxiety.

If you spend most of your day sitting at your desk, bent over, working, you’re likely to experience a tension headache or two. Additionally, if someone in your family, like a parent or grandparent, suffered from tension headaches, you could be genetically predisposed or more likely to get them too. 

Triggers may include: 

  • Stress

  • Alcohol

  • Dental problems such as clenching your jaw

  • Eye strain or dry eyes

  • Fatigue

  • Smoking

  • A cold or flu or sinus infection

  • Caffeine

  • Poor posture

  • Emotional stress

  • Dehydration or not enough nutritious foods

Tension headaches bring an annoying pressure around the forehead and tenderness around your scalp. Symptoms include difficulty focusing and irritability and fatigue. 

Managing migraine and tension headaches

To effectively manage migraines and tension headaches, seeing a physician or primary care provider is typically the best approach.. Here are some proactive steps to take charge of your headache woes.

Comprehensive assessment: Start by consulting a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation of your headache symptoms. This evaluation will help in distinguishing between migraines and tension headaches and identifying any underlying medical conditions that might be adding to the pain.

Personalized triggers identification: Get your diary out! Record the occurrence of headaches and possible triggers. Track facts such as diet, sleep patterns, stress levels and environmental factors. This may reveal patterns to help you avoid future headache triggers. 

Stress management techniques: A long day at work is a significant trigger for both migraines and tension headaches, along with other types of stress. Consider relaxation exercises, meditation, deep breathing or yoga to manage stress. Adopting these mechanisms can minimize the frequency and intensity of headaches.

Sleep hygiene: Feeling tired? Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, ensuring you get an adequate amount of rest each night. Establish a calming pre-sleep routine to prepare your body and mind for restful sleep. 

Ergonomic consideration: Evaluate your workplace and home environment for ergonomic improvements. Ensure your chair, desk and computer setup aren’t destroying your posture. Take the strain off your neck and back muscles to reduce the potential for headaches.

Nutrition and hydration: Adopt a balanced diet with regular meals and remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. Avoid skipping meals and limit the consumption of headache-triggering substances like caffeine and alcohol.

How can Agile help relieve your Migraine and Tension headaches?

Seeking effective migraine and tension headache management? Agile offers a blend of convenience and expert medical guidance to help you conquer those bothersome headaches. With a team of licensed providers specialized in headache management, we provide personalized, same-day treatment through no-appointment messaging or real-time consults.

Simply fill out a brief patient intake form for an expert provider to review. Say goodbye to headache woes and manage your pain with Agile’s rapid and personalized headache management service. 

Ready for your rapid, personalized treatment? Click here!