Is it a headache or a migraine and what is causing it?


By Lisa Nicholson 


Headaches and migraines are both neurological disorders that impact many of us every day. Migraines and headaches fall into the same family, but one is much more severe than the other. There are also different causes and symptoms for each, varying between person.

A headache, as many of us know, is characterized by mild to moderate pain, including a steady ache throughout the head. On the other hand, a migraine is moderate to severe, with throbbing pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraines: Genetics and environmental

Although much about the cause of migraines isn’t understood, it is believed that genetics and environmental factors play a role. Changes in the brainstem and its interactions with nerves may cause migraines. Additionally, researchers are continuing to study the role of serotonin in migraines, noticing that imbalances in brain chemicals, like serotonin, may be involved.


During a migraine, serotonin levels drop significantly. It’s possible that this causes your trigeminal system to released neuropeptides. These neuropeptides then travel to your brain’s outer covering which results in the pain you feel.

What triggers migraines? 

The exact cause of a migraine is uncertain. However, there are many things that can trigger migraines such as: hormone changes, foods or food additives, stress, changes in sleeping habits, medications, sensory stimuli, and changes in the environment. Scientists continue to research migraines to understand their cause.


Diet can greatly impact frequency and severity of migraines. Cutting back on gluten, sugar, and alcohol can improve your condition. Additionally, staying hydrated is key. Try to drink about three liters of water daily to prevent dehydration-related headaches.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraines. Working with your doctor to manage your condition is the best alternative at this time. Two types of treatment are available: pain-relieving medications and preventative medications. Pain-relieving medications are suggested during an attack, when you’re already experiencing pain. Preventative medications are to be taken every day in hopes of reducing the severity or frequency of migraines.

While sometimes overlooked, both headaches and migraines are common neurological disorders that many of us face. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you are experiencing severe head pain.


Questions about the article? Contact us at