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Migraine is More Than Head Pain: The Many Symptoms of Migraine

Those who have never had a migraine tend to think of it as a raging headache. While sympathetic folks may understand that the pain is awful, even they don't realize that a migraine is not only a headache. While it is certainly a major aspect, pain is one of many symptoms of migraine. The pain is a big deal, but it is only a small part of this neurological disorder that impacts the entire body. Migraine: The Complete Guide, a book published by the American Headache Society in 1994, has the most comprehensive list I've found. Though the book is old and no longer available, this list is invaluable.

Visual and sensory aura

Visual Aura (before the pain begins)

  • Aura is a bright shape that spreads across the visual field of one eye and appears to block some or all of the vision; can be seen whether the eye is open or closed
  • Flashes of light and color
  • Wavy lines
  • Geometric patterns
  • Blurred vision
  • Partial loss of sight

Sensory Aura

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  • Numbness or tingling on the face or upper extremities
  • A sense that limbs are a distorted shape or size
  • Heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and smells
  • Smelling odors that aren’t actually present (like natural gas or something burning)
  • Skin sensitivity and intolerance of being touched (allodynia)

Motor skills and skin impacted by migraine


  • Partial paralysis
  • Weakness or heaviness in the limbs on one side of the body


  • Paleness
  • Cold, clammy hands and feet
  • Facial swelling
  • Goose bumps
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Black circles around eyes
  • Sweating

Digestive symptoms and fluid changes


  • Food cravings (particularly for carbohydrates, candy and chocolate)
  • Stomach rumblings
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Intolerance of food odors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea

Fluid disturbances

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Bloating/fluid retention

Cognitive and mental symptoms



  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • High energy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Euphoria, feeling of intense well-being

Respiratory and circulatory symptoms


  • Frequent yawning
  • Sighing
  • Hyperventilating
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose


  • Changes in blood chemistry
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Blood vessel dilation
  • Difficulty regulating temperature
  • Changes in heart rhythms

Though quite detailed, this list is by no means complete. I can add dizziness and trembling.

What about you? Which of these symptoms do you have? Do you have other symptoms not listed here?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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