Early Signs and Symptoms of a Migraine Attack

Early Signs and Symptoms of a Migraine Attack

As we know, people with migraine experience a vast number of symptoms during a migraine attack, and every person’s experience is unique. In addition to actual symptoms during an attack, migraineurs may also encounter specific signs that an attack is on the horizon. We asked our Facebook community if they have any unusual early migraine signs, and over 300 people responded!

Ten or more people said that they experience the following before a migraine attack:

  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Neck pain/stiffness
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Mood swings
  • Food cravings/hunger
  • Vision changes
  • Numbness/tingling
  • Nausea
  • Auras
  • Sensitivity to lights
  • A cold nose
  • Eye pain
  • Fatigue

Some other commonly reported symptoms were difficulty concentrating, slurred speech hiccups, sweating, droopy eye, tasting metal, frequent urination, jaw and/or eye pain, runny nose/sinus pressure, thirst, and muscle tightening.


Here are some of the comments from the members of our Facebook community:

I yawn a lot:

  • Yawning is a big signal…another of mine is the inability to listen to whoever is talking. I drift off and find it irritating.
  • I get the yawning. And one eye will water constantly until I’m in full-fledged migraine status. I am sensitive to smell as well.
  • Yawning, watery eyes, vision changes, irritability, sometimes it just appears ugly unexpectedly.
  • Thanks for sharing all of this. I get the yawning too. It took me a long time to put it together with migraine. It’s very distracting. Sometimes I get the sweats. Does anyone, ummmm urinate a LOT? This is the oddest symptom I get, and I swear if I am in the ladies like all day, I get a migraine, a bad one, within 36 hours.
  • I yawn like crazy! I always have to apologize, my nose and cheeks get cold and eyes go a little funny. Lately I smell smoke. The back of my head and neck go rigid, I have been using Tiger Balm to help. Sometimes I have to wrap myself in multiple blankets. I have yawning too. Never heard of anyone else with the same issue. Yeah. I am not crazy.
  • Yawning, watery eyes and Super Smell!
  • Yawning is a big thing with me, also. Took a while to figure it out, but now when I yawn the people at work say uh oh, are you getting a migraine? They notice it before I do!

Nausea is a big signal for me

  • I get extremely nauseous. The back of my head and neck get sore. I get extremely cold and cannot get warm.
  • Nausea, yawning & hiccups.
  • Nausea & taste of metal in my mouth before migraine even hits.
  • I get that nausea feeling, back of head and neck get stiff and sore, and I get super human smelling and hearing…. everything intensifies before a migraine and during and as it eases away.

 My vision is affected

  • Blurred vision and an aura.
  • Sharp pain behind my left eye, always left? Then noises, light and smells get more intense right before it hits. BUT once I have a migraine I can’ t sit still or my whole body throbs. I know my blood pressure is high at the time due to the pain. So until the pain eases, I pace and pace.
  • Sore eyes, nausea, irregular heartbeat, trembling hands and much more. To me … the real pain and sadness is that I cant read my books.
  • I get irritable, spacy, change in vision (every thing seems brighter or duller), visual disturbances (spots that i can not see through), lessened energy, confusion, weakness and disorientation.
  • Blurry vision…difficulty speaking & processing info.
  • Mine start with sore eyes, my neck starts to bother me. I can feel the pressure thing as well Angela. But mine usually start between my eyes and neck at the same time and eventually meet in the middle then I get the pressure feeling.
  • Never noticed yawning…. But I will get a warning of seeing auras and other visual things like little “shooting stars” across.
  • I get a sharp pain in my right eye then white spots then down for a few days. I get anywhere between 3 to 6 migraines a week.


I have a lot of neck pain/stiffness

  • Sore joints, especially back and neck, irritable (my poor family), clumsiness, forgetfulness, crippling headache, sensitive eyes.
  • My neck becomes very painful, which for me means a migraine the next day
  • For me, usually the night before, I get these really bad pains in the back of head on the left side. Then the next day I have a killer migraine that knocks me out of my daily life. I also see spots and lights.
  • Neck pain. Feels like I slept wrong and then it feels like I have a giant weight on top of my head compressing my neck. I used to get them at the very least once a month. Since I started MM I had my first one in almost 2 years!

Do you encounter any unique symptoms before you get a migraine? Share your experience with us in the comments!

Comments

View Comments (38)
  • 20vg69b
    10 months ago

    My face swells, neck pain and stiffness, noise, light and smells really bother me. I hadn’t really thought about it until now but I do the yawning thing too. I see spots or sometimes an aura that looks like I’m seeing through a prism. If that happens I feel like my head is going to explode in about 20 minutes. My friends and family say that my eyes look different. They can see the pain in them. Mine are chronic. So I have some degree of headache every day.

  • Mrs Diehl
    1 year ago

    I was surprised that I didn’t see a mention of extreme sleepiness. I call it undeniable sleepiness. (I looked it up because I could not find the word in my head-another symptom. Another word fit well: incessant. It took me a while to connect the dots on that one.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Mrs. Diehl! I love your phrase “undeniable sleepiness”! I’m wondering if the Mayo Clinic definition of fatigue “Unrelenting exhaustion lasts longer, is more profound and isn’t relieved by rest. It’s a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces your energy, motivation, and concentration.” might more closely match your concept than the word fatigue. I surely understand what you mean, I experience that almost devastating sleepiness on occasion. Thanks for being part of the community and sharing your lexicon! (which I just may borrow :)) -Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • ScottJ
    2 years ago

    With many migraines, I get a stiff/sore neck first and it often “cracks” when I move my head back. The more cracking, the worse the headache will likely be. Also, when I move my head it sounds like two pieces of metal are grinding on each other in my upper neck. However, when odors cause a migraine, I first get a tight jaw and the right side of my jaw typically “pops” when I move it. I know some people say that sensitivity to smells is part of prodrome, but if that is the case then I am always prodromal because certain smells always bother me. When I get ocular migraines, it starts with vertigo, then tunnel vision and spaciness, and then my right eye locks, followed by intense zigging lines, followed by blindness.

  • shirlthegirl27
    3 years ago

    Yawning, watery bloodshot eyes and irritability are my biggest 3 precursors. I find myself not wanting to talk or even listen to others in the hours preceding an attack. I just go off into a disinterested daze and wish they would stop talking to me. Geez, I must look so unsociable! Mine last around 3 days and I get one every couple of months. Very debilitating. Bed ridden. I become extremely sensitive to noise. I get quite upset with my husband and kids for making too much noise when all they are doing is everyday run of the mill things around the house. I now wear earplugs during an attack. I also get a droopy eyelid and blocked sinus on the attack side and cant eat, only drink water whether nauseous or not. After a migraine I get on this rediculous over the top high for a couple of days. Singing, being silly, chatting to everyone who will listen… Oh the joys of living with migraine!

  • headake
    3 years ago

    As my migraine syndrome has worsened over the past years, I have developed a ptosis (sagging eyelid) in my right eye. I’m told by my headache doc that this ptosis is a ‘pain barometer’, and I have noticed that the more my head hurts the droopier my right eyelid seems to become.

    With all of the docs I’ve seen, treatments and meds I’ve tried, I am skeptical about everything associated with migraine. Anyone heard of ptosis as a migraine symptom?

  • shirlthegirl27
    3 years ago

    I get the same in my left eye. Migraine is always left sided. I often wonder if I’m having a stroke but it seems to come good after the attack subsides.

  • Diane
    3 years ago

    Moodiness, pain on mastoid bone behind ear (usually right) and/neck; pain from either eye means will really be a bad one: smells and light will bother – get to a dim/ dark room with pressure and/or ice on head if can. If have time, take pre meds if catch. If not, take regular meds as soon as can. Nausea; if very bad- vomiting. Clumsy and uncoordinated comes after migraine. Sometimes before. Occasionally notice the yawning and eye watering, but didn’t connect it to migraines until recently – but maybe because I read this.

  • jns192 moderator
    3 years ago

    Diane,
    Thank you so much for sharing your symptoms with us.
    I wanted to share a few more articles that I think you might be able to relate to. Be sure to check out (and/or post!) in the comments section under the article for more feedback from members like you.

    Mood Swings: A Migraine Warning Sign: https://migraine.com/blog/mood-swings-a-warning-sign/

    Neck Pain: https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-symptoms-neck-pain/

    Nausea: https://migraine.com/blog/managing-nausea/

    Clumsiness: https://migraine.com/blog/clumsiness/

    Weather: https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-triggers-the-power-of-weather/

    Menstruation: https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-triggers-period-hormones/

    Feel free to sift through these whenever you find the time 🙂

    Best,
    Jillian (Migraine.com Team)

  • Diane
    3 years ago

    Forgot a biggie: rainy weather. Used to be periods too! Whew! But still on hormones, so still some of that – but they’re more level.

  • DACH
    3 years ago

    When a migraine is coming on before i feel it I have muscle weakness in my legs and have less control holding back urine. sometimes the very first sign is a clear discharge from my left nostril only. Also extra sensitivity to light and sound. I wear these dorky sunglasses i buy at Wamart that fit over my regular glasses becase they have a plastic shelf like extension that blocks the flourescent light from above. That has enabled me to attend seminary classes in rooms with flourescent lights. Imetrex gives me explosive diarara. I was getting between 15-26 migraines a month but finally am getting botox for migraines which has cut the number back to that which allows me ability to spend time with my family. As a teenager They ony came with my periods or bright sun but as I got older and doctors consistently did not give me me enough medicines to treat my migraines because of fear i would become addicted they got worse. Instead of taking the medicine as soon as i thought one was coming on like i should have because j was likited at first to only six pills a month i would wait to be sure it was really a migraine and not just a headache and then they would last for three days. i would have to be in a dark totally quiet room, which with children is not pissible in anyhouse i have livedin. triggers increased to include dorito chips, hot dogs, my beloved milk chocolate, change in weather, thunderstorms right before they came, stress, family arguements, skipping meals, irregular sleep patterns, insomina, too long on the computer, pain of any kind would trigger one. I have adjusted to dark chocolate but seem to absolutely crave it before a migraine hits, so its hard to tell if its a trigger or consequence of a beginning of one. The migraines can take over your life or you can just keep working through them. At 63 I am still fighting for the right to have a decent happy life. I had to ask a guy I was working for once to pull his car to the side of the road so I could throw up one time with a migraine but you know what, it didn’t kill me. You can’t die of embarassment, no matter how much you think so. I had to go to a hisputal that day to get the shot in the hip that you can’t drive after taking but was back at work two days later. That is what you need to do no matter how much you just want to be free of them.

  • Karen
    3 years ago

    I yawn a LOT before the pain gets really bad. I also get the wavy lines in my vision, I can’t stand the smell of anything, and my entire body starts to feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Once the pulsing light starts, I know I’m in trouble. I have to go to bed, turn off all the lights, put an ice pack on my neck, and pray for it to end.

  • Robin H
    4 years ago

    If I stand up and am disoriented and feel numbness from my lower back down, it may be a migraine. If sound then starts to ‘pulsate’ I know I’m in trouble. Everything gets louder and softer in rhythm – very hard to explain.

  • var122
    4 years ago

    I get a kind of in appropriate in my speech. And things are really funny to me. Weird, I know…
    This past week, the lights at work got ‘shimmery’ & I had a hard time focusing my vision.

  • Angela Meeks
    4 years ago

    This one took me years to figure out because I stay so tired all the time it was dismissed as me needing more rest. I have slurred speech and words combined when I try to use two words to express something and a new word combo comes out. It is complete nonsense and makes for good laughs but I have now learned that a monster migraine is just around the corner. Along with that is making tons of simple mistakes, messing up simple tasks along with many of the others mentioned in this article.

  • Linda K.
    4 years ago

    Occasionally, I “see things”, eyes closed or open, doesn’t matter. I’m not talking about flashing lights, heat waves, etc., although I get those sometimes, too. This is more like watching a full-color, action-packed mini-movie! It ranges from geometric shapes to dancing Rubix cubes (that was my favorite). The pain of the migraine invariable follows in an hour or two. My neurosurgeon once told me he was envious that he didn’t get to see what I saw!

  • Julia
    4 years ago

    I have had migraines since I was 14. However, since 2008, they have become almost daily. Starting in about 2010, I began having the weirdest migraine warning sign. I stutter. As the migraine becomes closer and more intense, I lose the ability to connect words together, the ability to name things, the ability to do more than say “uh um that that that thing” and point when 10 minutes before I could identify the item as a pen or whatever it was. It has become a strong enough identifier that before she passed, my mother would immediately order me to take my medication even before the migraine had hit. And weirder (is that a word?) than ever, my cat has started to predict my migraines by staring at me and pawing at my face.

  • sgirl
    4 years ago

    Very, very tired. Impatient, have to urinate alot, yawning, and the most obvious sign is the stiff neck, back, feels like a truck hit you. As the migraine picks up speed I get nausea and the urge to want to eat bread items. Very zoney as well.

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    I seem to get auras and my ear starts ringing…only way to describe it is it feels like it’s asleep. Then I get numb. I get nausea about 1/2 the time. Today I’ve noticed a weakness in my legs.

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    Forgot to mention…I feel like I’m disconnected…like I’m walking around in a fog and can’t find the right words…

  • Nicole
    4 years ago

    For about 2 years, I would always drop things before getting a migraine. It doesn’t happen with every migraine now, but still happens occasionally.

  • Sarecycle
    4 years ago

    I sometimes have a brutal allergy attack. You would swear I had rubbed a cat on my face. My eyes water and I start sneezing like crazy. The yawning thing happens to me as well on occasion and I am always bewildered at how I could be so tired (on usually not a tough day), them BAM it hits. My usual tip off is when I start clenching my jaw. I do it unconsciously, but it is a precursor almost every time.

  • sjsmith
    4 years ago

    One person above mentioned getting relief from MM. Anyone know what that is referring to?

  • Victoria
    3 years ago

    It’s probably referring to medical marijuana.

  • Kiwe
    4 years ago

    I get the metallic taste in my mouth (almost like blood).

  • Jillian
    4 years ago

    Before a bad migraine I have skin sensitivity. It usually starts in my feet. If I am wearing socks, they suddenly become very uncomfortable and I have to take them off. Soon my arms and legs will also be uncomfortable and then I know I might as well just go to bed.

  • Nicole
    4 years ago

    I get that too, but predominantly on my head. It is called allodynia.

  • usmcmom
    4 years ago

    Not always but the day before I have problems with my speech. Words just come out wrong, and I start to talk really fast, I normally am a fast talker, but I talk even faster, and I start tripping up on my words, I usually end up saying, I am going to get a migraine within the next 24 hours. I also get the excessive yawning.

  • Boo
    4 years ago

    I get weird sensations, like I’m floating above my body.. It’s like my senses start to go into overdrive. I also get constant yawning and muscle tightening in my neck and jaw.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    4 years ago

    Boo14- that floating sensation has a name- it’s called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Here’s an interesting NY Times article about it.
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/23/alice-in-wonderland-syndrome/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1

  • Luna
    4 years ago

    This probably isn’t where to ask but don’t know where and am getting desperate. Is constant gas and bloat part of migraine or what? Didn’t used to do this but for over a year now I’ve struggled with this issue. This came on before an acute attack and yes I have chronic migraine.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    4 years ago

    Jean,
    Yes, gas and bloat can be a part of the prodrome or aura of a Migraine. There is something called Abdominal Migraines, where stomach issues can be as painful as the headache that follows. It is more common in children, but does happen in adults as well. If you haven’t talked to your doctor about it yet, you should do so. You may need to check with a gastroenterologist as well just to make sure there is nothing else going on.

    http://migraine.com/migraine-types/abdominal-migraine/

  • zippy36
    4 years ago

    I had the yawning symptom when I was younger. Now, I get neck tenseness, nausea and I stutter. I am told I get the “look” also. People tell me I get a blank expression and that I get quieter.

  • Heather
    4 years ago

    I get cranky right before I get a migraine. The pain is always on my left side of my head from behind my eye all the way down my neck. I seem to get confused and unable to concentrate. I have a sensitivity to light, sound, and smells. I hate having to start everything over with a new Dr and having to explain what I have already tried to do to get my headaches under control.

  • Jack
    4 years ago

    Vision disturbance is my first notice that a migraine is beginning. Then a numbness and “pins and needles” in my limbs and sometimes my tongue and throat. Followed by the “pukes”. Within a half hour or so the headaches follow accompanied by difficulty speaking and thinking logically. The pain can vary from no pain at all to near screaming intensity with increasing desperation and thoughts of suicide to stop the pain.

  • Stefania
    4 years ago

    I get very depressed in a different way than my normal depression. It feels as if my brain isn’t ‘right, neurochemicals aren’t working or working right, and I always wonder why I have the blues…sure enough, two house later is a full blown migraine.

  • Leslie Coutsouridis
    2 years ago

    My neck and surrouning areas get deeply tense and painful often as a prod Rome and certainly during the mihraines
    Whereas I use an ice band on my head,
    I often use heat on neck and shoulders with a cape shaped pad I heat in.the microwave. This has actually aborted
    one migraine and often actually helps as it relaxes those muscles..

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