Migraine vs Tension Headache: Difference and Comparison

Headaches seem to be common with all the tensions running in our life. Most of us have likely suffered from headaches at some point in our life. In some people, it may vanish within a few hours.

Key Takeaways

  1. Migraine is a type of headache that involves intense pain, on one side of the head, accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  2. Tension headache, on the other hand, is a milder form of headache characterized by a dull, aching pain on both sides of the head that may feel like a tight band around the head.
  3. While the causes of migraine and tension headaches may differ, both conditions can be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, and certain foods.

Migraine vs Tension Headache

Migraine headaches are characterized by a pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of the head and may be accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Tension headaches are caused by muscle tension and stress and are characterized by a dull, aching pain on both sides of the head.

Migraine vs Tension Headache

Migraine pain is a type of pain that causes a pulsating sensation. It causes severe pain on one side of the head. Migraine pain makes the person exhausted, causing difficulty in day-to-day handling tasks.

Tension headache is the most common type of headache. It causes a mild sensation on both sides of the head. It exerts pressure across the forehead, causing moderate pain.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMigraine HeadacheTension Headache
IdentificationMigraine headaches cause aches on only one side of the head.Tension headaches cause pain on both sides of the head.
SeverityIt causes throbbing around the head and makes day-to-day tasks difficult to accomplish.Its pain isn’t severe as that of Migraine pain.
CausesIts exact cause is uncertain. They are caused by imbalances in brain activities or changes in hormones.It is caused by stress, tension, anxiety, and fatigue.
SymptomsIts symptoms include vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to light, sound, and smell.Its symptoms are eye strain, aching pain around the forehead, insomnia.
TreatmentIt is important to visit a doctor to treat migraine pain. A visit may include an MRI and CT scan and intake of prescribed medicines to relieve pain.It can be treated through getting proper sleep and water intake and, in some cases, using over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

What is Migraine Headache?

Migraine is a type of headache that causes a thumping sensation in the head. It is experienced on one side of the head. It can be identified through its symptoms which include 

  • Moderate to severe pain worsening on one side of the head
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tingling of neck and face during pain
  • Soreness and uneasiness in doing slight physical activity

Meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes may help in reducing pain to an extent. Proper and timely intake of medications might help. 

The stages of a migraine include:

  1. Premonitory stage: It is considered the first stage of experiencing migraine pain.
  2. Aura: Aura is the consequence of a nerve signal that is transmitted throughout the brain.
  3. Attack: Migraine attacks may happen rarely or frequently, depending upon the person.
  4. Post-drome: It is also called the recovery stage. At this stage, one may feel drained or fatigued.
migraine headache

What is Tension Headache?

Tension headaches are also called stress or muscle contraction headaches. Tension headache is regarded as the most common type of headache.

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Tension-type headache is broadly classified into two categories:

  1. Chronic tension headaches: The headache starts from the back of the head or neck and spreads over the entire head.
  2. Episodic tension headache: Its symptoms are the same as chronic tension headaches.
tension headache

Main Differences Between Migraine and Tension Headache

  1. Major triggers of migraine headaches are smoking, alcohol, distress, sleeping patterns, food containing tyramine, etc. On the other hand, a tension headache is triggered by eyestrain, hunger, and tension. 
  2. Migraine headaches are prevalent in less proportion of individuals. Whereas tension headaches are common and have been experienced by almost everyone once in their life.
Difference Between Migraine and Tension Headache
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789480800013
  2. https://headachejournal.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1526-4610.1986.hed2609465.x

Last Updated : 20 July, 2023

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25 thoughts on “Migraine vs Tension Headache: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The details provided here on the aspects of tension headaches are quite enlightening. Managing them effectively is a matter of understanding them well.

  2. The stages of a migraine are quite interesting. Understanding these stages can provide a better perspective on how to address them.

  3. The information shared here is extremely valuable. It provides a good resource for anyone dealing with migraines or tension headaches.

  4. Identifying the differences in headaches and knowing what triggers them is such an essential part of effective management. This article does a fantastic job of laying out these details.

    • Indeed, the clarity brought to these details is truly helpful. It can make a significant difference in the lives of those dealing with such headaches.

  5. The differences between migraine and tension headaches are quite important to note as the treatment for each varies. Thank you for detailing this.

  6. The triggers for each type of headache are significant. Identifying these triggers can greatly reduce the chances of experiencing such pain.

  7. The ability to differentiate between types of headaches is a crucial part of managing them effectively. This information greatly contributes to that aim.

  8. Migraines can be utterly debilitating, so it’s crucial to know all the potential remedies. Thanks for providing this breakdown of possible treatments.

    • You’re right. Being aware of the available remedies empowers those dealing with migraines to make better choices about their care.

  9. Headaches seem to be very common and can be hard to manage at times. It’s important to get the right diagnosis so the right treatment can be administered.

    • Yes, getting a proper diagnosis is crucial. It’s not always easy to determine whether it’s a migraine or a tension headache. One must be attentive to symptoms.


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