Determining the appropriate headache treatment for a patient is reliant, in part, on accurate identification of the headache type. Unfortunately, headaches frequently fall prey to misdiagnosis. According to Understanding Migraines, proper treatment is particularly evasive for migraineurs. Studies have repeatedly shown that misdiagnosis occurs regularly with migraine. Plus, statistics suggest that more than 50% of those with migraine never get a diagnosis or professional medical treatment.
Let's look at the basic differences between migraine and cluster headaches, two of the most debilitating forms of head pain. Although any chronic headache is best diagnosed and treated by a medical doctor, it's helpful for you to have general knowledge so that misdiagnosis is less likely to occur.
Migraine is typically experienced as unilateral throbbing, meaning that only one side of the head is affected. Beyond head pain, other symptoms – especially nausea, vomiting, and photosensitivity (light sensitivity) – are prevalent during migraine as well.
Migraine attacks are different physiologically from all other types of headaches. Headaches usually involve vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels, reducing the flow) in the brain. In the case of migraine, vasoconstriction occurs, followed by vasodilation (widening of blood vessels, increasing the flow). Despite this disparity between migraine headaches and other forms of headaches, scientists now believe it is unlikely that the vasodilation itself is causing the pain.
A migraine can vary in length from a couple of hours to a few days. The primary difference between a migraine headache and a sinus or tension headache is the intensity. Far from just being an annoyance, migraine results in moderate to severe disability for 11 million Americans.
A major differentiator between migraine and cluster headaches is the possibility of an aura before the attack, an experience of strange visual sensations (such as spots or lines in the field of vision), verbal difficulties, or prickliness in the skin. However, the majority of migraines are not classified as migraine with aura but migraine without aura: an aura should not be expected.
The cluster headache gets its name from the frequency with which it occurs during a relatively short period of time. Cluster headaches occur unilaterally just as migraines do, with the pain typically at the temple or near the eye. Also similarly to migraines, cluster headaches generate severe pain, with some patients stating that childbirth was less excruciating. Cluster headaches range in length from 15 minutes to a few hours, sometimes striking multiple times daily.
One characteristic of cluster headaches that sets them apart from migraines is that the attacks often take place at specific times of day. In many cases, those suffering from cluster headaches are awakened by the devastating bouts of pain.
Although misdiagnosis is a common problem with headaches – as with the cluster and migraine varieties – there is now a revolutionary therapy, proven safe and effective for numerous types of head pain: MiRx™ Protocol. MiRx offers a dual approach, combining a medical therapy with a diverse set of biomechanical therapies. Find a provider in your area, or ask your doctor about MiRx today.