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What does a mini migraine feel like?

Overview — Migraine

Many people also have symptoms such as feeling sick, being sick and increased sensitivity to light or sound.

Migraine is a common health condition, affecting around 1 in every 5 women and around 1 in every 15 men. They usually begin in early adulthood.

There are several types of migraine, including:

  • migraine with aura – where there are specific warning signs just before the migraine begins, such as seeing flashing lights
  • migraine without aura – the most common type, where the migraine happens without the specific warning signs
  • migraine aura without headache, also known as silent migraine – where an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but a headache does not develop

Some people have migraines frequently, up to several times a week. Other people only have a migraine occasionally.

It’s possible for years to pass between migraine attacks.

When to get medical advice

You should see a GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms.

Simple painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can be effective for migraine.

Try not to use the maximum dosage of painkillers on a regular or frequent basis as this could make it harder to treat headaches over time.

You should also make an appointment to see a GP if you have frequent migraines (on more than 5 days a month), even if they can be controlled with medicines, as you may benefit from preventative treatment.

You should call 999 for an ambulance immediately if you or someone you’re with experiences:

  • paralysis or weakness in 1 or both arms or 1 side of the face
  • slurred or garbled speech
  • a sudden agonising headache resulting in a severe pain unlike anything experienced before
  • headache along with a high temperature (fever), stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision and a rash

These symptoms may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a stroke or meningitis, and should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of migraines

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, although they’re thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.

Around half of all people who experience migraines also have a close relative with the condition, suggesting that genes may play a role.

Some people find migraine attacks are associated with certain triggers, which can include:

  • starting their period
  • stress
  • tiredness
  • certain foods or drinks

Treating migraines

There’s no cure for migraines, but a number of treatments are available to help reduce the symptoms.

  • painkillers – including over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • triptans – medicines that can help reverse the changes in the brain that may cause migraines
  • anti-emetics – medicines often used to help relieve people’s feeling of sickness (nausea) or being sick

During an attack, many people find that sleeping or lying in a darkened room can also help.

Preventing migraines

If you suspect a specific trigger is causing your migraines, such as stress or a certain type of food, avoiding this trigger may help reduce your risk of experiencing migraines.

It may also help to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, sleep and meals, as well as ensuring you stay well hydrated and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.

If your migraines are severe or you have tried avoiding possible triggers and are still experiencing symptoms, a GP may prescribe medicines to help prevent further attacks.

Medicines used to prevent migraines include the anti-seizure medicine topiramate and a medicine called propranolol that’s usually used to treat high blood pressure.

It may take several weeks before your migraine symptoms begin to improve.


Migraines can severely affect your quality of life and stop you carrying out your normal daily activities.

Some people find they need to stay in bed for days at a time.

But a number of effective treatments are available to reduce the symptoms and prevent further attacks.

Migraine attacks can sometimes get worse over time, but they tend to gradually improve over many years for most people.

Page last reviewed: 10 May 2019
Next review due: 10 May 2022

Is It Normal To Get Headaches Everyday?

Grady Health

Most people have headaches from time to time. But if you have a headache more days than not, you might have chronic daily headaches, which come in many forms – most of them pretty disabling.

You may be suffering from chronic daily headaches if the headaches occur 15 days or more a month and you have experienced them for at least three months.

In general, there are four kinds of chronic daily headaches. They include:

  • Chronic migraine headaches. These can affect one side or both sides of your head, have a throbbing sensation, and cause moderate-to-severe pain. They can also cause nausea, vomiting, or both. People tend to be sensitive to light and sound during these headaches.
  • Chronic tension headaches. These tend to affect both sides of your head, cause mild-to-moderate pain, and produce a pain that feels like pressing or tightening but not throbbing.
  • New daily persistent headaches. These occur suddenly, usually in people without a history of headaches. They often affect both sides of the head, cause pain that feels like pressing or tightening and produce mild-to-moderate pain.
  • Hemicrania continua. These affect only one side of the head, are continuous with no pain-free periods, produce spikes of severe pain, respond to the prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Indocin, and are associated with one or more of the following:
    • Tearing or redness of the eye on the affected side of the head.
    • Nasal congestion or a runny nose.
    • Drooping eyelid or narrowing pupil.
    • The sensation of restlessness.

    What Causes Chronic Headaches?

    No one really knows why some people suffer from this debilitating condition. Conditions that may cause it include:

    • Inflammation or other problems with the blood vessels in and around the brain.
    • Strokes, in which blood vessels in the brain a blocked, reducing blood flow to the brain.
    • Infections, including meningitis.
    • High or low intracranial pressure.
    • Brain tumors.
    • Traumatic brain injury.
    • Overuse of pain medication.

    How Can You Prevent Chronic Headaches?

    While the cause of these headaches is unclear, research suggests that you can do some things to help prevent them – or at least reduce their intensity:

    • Avoid headache triggers. Keep track of things that appear to result in headaches, including foods you eat, activities you are doing, and the environment in which the headaches occur. If you can identify your headache triggers, you can try to avoid them.
    • Do not overuse medication. Using headache medications more than twice a week can increase the frequency and severity of headaches. If you have been taking medication for a long time, consult a doctor about weaning yourself off. Some medicines cannot be stopped cold turkey.
    • Get a good night’s sleep. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. It’s best to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If you have trouble sleeping, see a doctor.
    • Don’t skip meals. Eat healthy meals and avoid food or beverages that seem to trigger headaches. Lose weight if you’re obese.
    • Get regular exercise. Physical activity can improve your physical and mental well-being and reduce stress. With your doctor’s OK, choose activities you enjoy, like walking or cycling.
    • Reduce stress. Stress is a common trigger of chronic headaches. Try stress-reduction techniques, like yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
    • Cut back on caffeine. Some headache medications include caffeine because they can help to reduce headache pain. But it can also aggravate headaches. Try reducing or eliminating caffeine.

    When Should You See A Doctor?

    Occasional headaches usually require no special medical attention. However, you should consult a doctor if you:

    • Consistently have two or more headaches a week.
    • Take pain reliever for your headaches on most days.
    • Need more than the recommended dose of over-the-counter medicines to relieve headache pain.
    • Experience changes in the pattern of your headaches, or they get worse.
    • Find the headaches are disabling.

    Seek immediate medical care if your headache:

    • Is sudden and severe.
    • Is accompanied by a fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizure, double vision, weakness, numbness, or difficulty speaking.
    • Occurs after a head injury.
    • Gets worse after you rest and take pain medication.

    Get The Care You Need

    If your chronic headache is sudden and severe and associated with one of the symptoms above, you should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. If you suffer from more common chronic headaches, visit your doctor for advice. If you do not have a doctor, Grady can help. If you need a primary care physician, call us at (404) 616-1000 or make an appointment online. We’ll arrange an appointment at a Primary Care Center near you. Doctors there can treat most conditions and provide access to Grady’s unparalleled medical specialty expertise.

    The Migraine Relief Center Blog

    Keep up with the doctors, patients, treatments—and results—from all our locations.

    What Does a Menstrual Migraine Feel Like?

    Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Feb 8, 2023 1:45:00 PM

    menstrual migraine

    As if having a period isn’t enough, some women also suffer migraines during their «time of the month.» Aptly named menstrual migraine, this condition is triggered solely by shifting estrogen levels that may interact with serotonin or other brain chemicals to cause head pain and migraine other symptoms.

    It makes sense, then, that nearly 70% of migraineurs are women. Of that group, 60% and 70% report a connection between their menstrual cycle and migraine attacks. Unfortunately, menstrual migraines may not respond as readily to typical treatments and preventatives.

    What does a menstrual migraine feel like? It feels like most other migraines, but it’s piled on top of menstrual pain and discomfort.

    A Menstrual Migraine Is…

    Migraines are neurological diseases with symptoms that include debilitating pain on one side of the head that pulses or throbs. A menstrual migraine occurs up to three days before a woman’s period through three days during the period.

    The migraines may worsen with movement, light, odors, or sound, just like other migraines. Also, the migraines may last from a few hours to a few days.

    Estrogen and progesterone are essential sex hormones created in the ovaries and regulate the menstrual cycle. Estrogen controls the expression of female features, aids in reproduction, and kicks off puberty. Estrogen also affects cholesterol, the heart, the brain, and other tissues, and protects bone health.

    Symptoms of a Menstrual Migraine

    Menstrual migraine pain ranges from dull to severe throbbing. You may feel too warm and sweat or feel cold and get the chills. You may be sensitive to light, noise, and smells. You may have a tender scalp, lose your appetite, feel dizzy, or have blurred vision.

    Many migraineurs feel fatigued and show pallor (pale skin). Some suffer nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, and abdominal pain (along with menstrual cramps).

    Dropping estrogen levels are to blame for migraine attacks. Estrogen rises at the beginning of a cycle to ready to body for pregnancy. Then, during the cycle’s course, estrogen begins to drop, setting off migraines in susceptible women.

    Diagnosing Menstrual Migraines

    As with most migraines, a thorough history and medical checkup help your physician diagnose menstrual migraines. Be ready to describe the severity, location, and type of head pain (throbbing or pulsing).

    Your doctor will want to know how often you have migraine attacks and if anything relieves the head pain, including medications you take to relieve pain. You will also talk about activities, foods, stressors, or other situations that might trigger migraines.

    Does anyone else in your family suffer migraines? There are genetic factors that lead to migraines within families. Also, how do you feel before, during, and after the migraine? The answer to this and other questions helps your healthcare provider narrow the diagnosis to menstrual migraine.

    You may have a CT scan or MRI to rule out tumors and an EEG (electroencephalograph) to rule out seizures.

    If you keep a migraine diary or journal, take it with you. It should describe your symptoms, how long they last, and anything that impacts severity.


    Treating and Managing Menstrual Migraines

    Acute treatments are fast-acting medications taken by mouth, injected, or inhaled as a nasal spray, which are taken early in a migraine attack. Often, they are combined with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen sodium or ibuprofen.

    Oral medications include the following:

    • Sumatriptan
    • Rizatriptan
    • Zolmitriptan
    • Almotriptan
    • Eletriptan
    • A combination of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine (AAC)

    Injectables work more quickly than oral medications and include:

    • Sumatriptan (the only triptan available as an injectable)
    • Dihydroergotamine (DHE)

    Injectables have the advantage of bypassing the stomach, so if you have nausea or vomiting, you are less likely to eject the treatment before it can work.

    Nasal triptans are also faster than pills and avoid the problems with vomiting and nausea. Zolmitriptan, sumatriptan, and DHE are available as nasal sprays. Taking medication nasally may be more comfortable and acceptable than injections.

    Mini-preventives are medications taken when the threat of migraines is highest. You may take them for five to seven days in a row during a specific part of your cycle. These medications include:

    • NSAIDs
    • Hormones — estrogen supplements during the menstrual week to prevent a drop in estrogen. They are available as pills, vaginal gel, and patches.
    • Triptans dosed twice daily throughout the period.
    • Magnesium started on day 15 of the cycle, or 15 days from the start of the period, and continuing until it ends.

    Hormone supplements work best for those with regular periods. Birth control pills are a popular method of taking estrogen — you simply replace the inactive pills with estrogen pills.

    Magnesium works well for those with irregular periods because it depends on an individual’s cycle.

    Continuous preventatives work best with regular cycles. You take them beginning a few days before your period and continue for up to two weeks after your period begins. The same estrogen supplements used as mini-preventatives are also available for continuous management.

    You can take other daily medications to prevent migraines, increasing the dosage as your period nears. They include oral contraceptives, NSAIDs, triptans, methylergonovine, DHE, magnesium, fluoxetine, and estradiol.

    For some women, oral contraception may change migraine patterns, and not always positively. A lower dose estrogen pill is less likely to trigger migraines when you begin taking the inactive pills.

    An alternative is to eliminate the inactive pills in favor of extended cycle estrogen-progesterone pills or use low-dose estrogen pills to reduce the drop in hormone level.

    Also, you might consider taking NSAIDs or triptans during inactive pill days or an estrogen skin patch during that week.

    Pregnancy and Migraines

    Before attempting to become pregnant, or if you are pregnant and suffer migraines, speak with your doctor before beginning any course of medication. Many of the treatments for migraine are harmful to the developing fetus.

    Since estrogen levels rise rapidly and remain high during pregnancy, you might not suffer as many migraine attacks, and you can avoid harmful medications. Ask about safe alternatives and be ready for a potential migraine attack after birth when the estrogen level drops quickly.

    If you intend to breastfeed, discuss acceptable treatments that won’t pass to your baby in breast milk.


    Many women suffer migraines triggered by the reduction in estrogen that occurs before their period begins. A thorough medical history can help your doctor diagnose a menstrual migraine and provide appropriate acute and preventative treatment.

    If you believe your migraines are connected to your menstrual cycle, consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. There is no reason to add migraines to the discomfort of Aunt Flo’s visits.

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