Why a migraine is more than ‘just a headache’

Some migraines can last up to 72 hours, researchers say

Migraine generic ( Kindel Media, Pexels)

Many of us can agree that migraines are the worst, and it seems like more and more people are getting them. Not only are these “headaches on steroids” painful, but they’re also time-consuming. The National Library of Medicine reports that a migraine can last up to 72 hours if left untreated.

There are many triggers that can cause a migraine attack. But how can you identify a trigger?

According to migrainetrust.org, what we think is a trigger can actually be a warning stage of a migraine attack. The website mentions that symptoms of being in a warning stage include mood changes, cravings for certain foods and becoming more sensitive to smells, sounds or light.

Experts recommend keeping a diary if you are prone to migraines and writing down what you believe is trigging these attacks. Some important aspects of your day to jot down are your diet, bowel movements, exercise level, menstrual cycle, the weather and the activities you do during the day.

Below are common triggers for migraines from Migraine Trust:

  • Changes in routine
  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Caffeine
  • Hormones
  • Computer Usage
  • Food
  • Mile Dehydration
  • Drugs
  • Exercise
  • Teeth grinding
  • Light
  • Sound/noise

Different types of migraines:

Migraine - The exact cause of a migraine is unknown, according to the United Kingdom National Health Service, but the organization states that they occur due to abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, blood vessels and chemicals in the brain.

Chronic migraine - The American Migraine Foundation states that migraines are considered in the chronic category if a person has 15 or more of them per month. The organization writes that approximately 1% of the population experiences chronic migraines.

Migraine aura - The Cleveland Clinic states that a migraine aura is when a person’s symptoms affect visual, sensory or motor disturbances before a migraine attack. The clinic writes that typically the symptoms last an hour or less. This is considered the “warning stage” of a migraine headache.

There are three types of migraine aura: visual, sensorimotor and dysphasic.

  • Visual -- temporary changes to vision, including flashing lights or zigzags.
  • Sensorimotor -- motor disturbances including weakness, numbness or tingling.
  • Dysphasic -- mumbling or slurred speech.

Related: Have morning headaches? Here’s what may be causing them

Here are a few ways to help you get through a migraine attack:


  • According to the National Library of Medicine, during a German randomized controlled trial, 24 acupuncture treatments were found to be more effective in decreasing the duration of a migraine attack compared to flunarizine.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation

  • The National Library of Medicine states that the TMS practice is when a magnetic field is created by an electrical current that is wrapped around a person’s head. The coil can project single-pulses, pair-pulses and repetitive pulses. The organization writes that TMS is efficient for those suffering from migraines with aura. The studies show that TMS’s efficacy to help improve chronic migraines were not as significant compared to regular migraines and migraines with aura.


  • The National Library of Medicine acknowledges Triptans as a medication to ease migraine headaches. The medication is to act as an antimigraine agent that will selectively bind serotonin receptors. The FDA approved this medication to treat acute migraines with or without aura (warning stage). According to the organization, seven triptans are available in the United States. They are sumatriptan, naratriptan, zolmitriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, frovatriptan, and eletriptan

Do you get headaches all of the time? How do you lessen the symptoms? Click here to shoot me an email with your hack on handling migraines.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital Producer and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.