Tension Headaches And Migraine Headaches (What Is The Difference?)
From the Aetna Migraine Management Program
There are two main types of headaches:
tension and migraine. Your doctor can tell
you what type you have. He or she can look
at your medical history and perform a physical
exam. Sometimes, other tests may be needed.
Tension headaches may feel like a band of
pain around the head. The pain can spread
to the neck and scalp. This tension may be
aggravated by stress, tiredness, and getting
upset or angry.
Migraine headaches usually cause a very
severe, throbbing pain that often starts on
one side of the head and then spreads to the
face and entire head. Some people may have
both migraine and tension headaches.
Feels like a band of pain around the head. Pain can spread to neck and scalp, and is caused by tension in neck.
Feels like a severe and throbbing pain that often starts on one side of the head and may spread to the entire face and head.
Frequency and Duration
Some kinds of tension
headaches don't happen
that often and may last
only a few hours. Other
kinds may happen every day
and last for days at a time.
May occur only once a
year or several times
a month and usually
last 4 to 72 hours
Usually occurs on both
sides of the head in the
forehead, temples, or back
of head and neck.
Usually starts on one side
of the head or in one small
area, but may spread to
Strength of Pain
Mild to severe; usually not debilitating
Usually moderate to severe and very hard to bear
Nature of Pain
Dull, aching, not throbbing
Pounding, throbbing, pushing
Some tension headaches may cause dizziness, poor concentration, sleepiness or difficulty sleeping.
Upset stomach; vomiting; sensitivity to light, noise or smell; runny
nose, watery eyes, blurry vision. Some migraine headaches may even be mild in pain but cause other
May be present
Source: National Headache Foundation and American Council for Headache Education