Understanding Migraine Symptoms

When debilitating migraine symptoms strike, it can be difficult to function. Migraines can severely impact a patient’s quality of life by affecting sleep, social life and work.

Much like migraine triggers, identifying all of the potential migraine symptoms can be challenging. Many times we find ourselves wondering – could this be because of my migraines? We’ve asked our team of advocates to share their personal experience with a wide array of symptoms… several of which may seem unrelated to migraines.

Symptoms will vary from person to person – however it is important to identify your symptoms. Because there is no specific test for migraines, keeping track of symptoms is key in the diagnosis of migraines.

A Migraine attack can have up to four phases, and each of them has many potential symptoms. Not everyone experiences all four phases or all of the symptoms, and one Migraine attack can vary from the next. Some symptoms can occur during more than one phase. You should be aware of the four possible phases and some of the potential symptoms of those phases.

It is important to discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor as they could (1) be related to other underlying conditions (2) help identify triggers (3) help you treat early by identifying the early stages of a migraine.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience a severe pain or symptom that you’ve never felt before, it could be a sign of a serious medical condition.

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15 comments on “Understanding Migraine Symptoms

  1. […] Migraine Symptoms and Panic Triggers OverlapOcular Migraine Symptoms – Identify and NullifyUnderstanding Migraine Symptoms .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]

  2. Jennifer Collins-Gonzalez says:

    I really learned so much from Terri Roberts book “Living Well with Migraines”! I urge anyone who suffers from migraines to read this book! Amazing

  3. Ed Sanders says:

    What is there to understand?? When the body gives us a mager head ache then there is a real problem some where with in the body. I used to ge them so many times a week and lived on advil but I did not know that my sugar was vey hight and my blood presurre was soo high but now everything is under control and no more pain.

  4. well since not everyone is a diabetic,,including myself….there are other reasons why people get them..plus my mom always got them,,i think mine may be genetic…so to me…there is much to try to understand.

  5. taralane says:

    I just went through a real whopper migraine one that did not seem to have any phases at all. I had some auras – not too many (for me they are flashing lights and usually I have more than I had this time) the day before. The night before I ate some soy dip which I ate on crackers for dinner, and by 1 am Thursday night I had a migraine that had gone from 0-80 in about 5 minutes flat. There was no gentle lead up, no time to decide – is this going to be a bad one or can I stop it with ice if I can get to sleep, nothing like that. It was 0, and then a #8. I did not bother with the only triptan I have left that works for me, Axert, and took on nostril spray of Stadol. I then tried to go back to sleep. By morning I had had very little sleep, and the Stadol had not touched the migraine. Around 1:15 pm I took another spray of Stadol, and that knocked me out completely for about 5 hours. I don’t like Stadol because often when I wake up I don’t know where or who I am, as happened this time and it took about an hour to get my bearings. I even had a couple phone calls for which I have no memory at all.

    The migraine continued with no abatement, and by the next day I looked in my calendar to see how long it was since I took the last Axert. It had been 1 full week, and I knew if I took more Stadol it probably would bring on MOH, so I tried the Axert. After about 8 hours, the migraine came down to a level 4 which I can tolerate. I got up, walked my dog, got something to eat, and was feeling better, but by evening, the migraine was back to a #8, and I was out of options. I was now at hour #36 and counting.

    I got all the ice I had in the freezer, put it in an ice bag and went to bed. One of my neighbors walked my dog the next day, and I managed to take a 2nd Axert in the morning. That helped after another 8 hours and I ate, and sat up for a while, with the migraine now at a level #4, but it only lasted for 2 hours this time, and went right back to a #8. This went on for another 2 days +, until I was at hour # 60, and I thought I was headed for the hospital because I was so exhausted from the pain, and was heading toward the 72 hr mark, but it finally subsided around hr. 66, and I went to sleep, and woke up and stayed in bed all day.

    I don’t know what caused it. Was it the bad storm that we had for 2 days at the same time? Was it what I ate? What was it? I have been having a lot of stomach problems lately, and where I used to be able to take strong opiates, wipe out the pain and go to work, now just the smallest amount of painkiller knocks me out. My body has gotten so sensitive to everything from 43 years of medications and pushing so hard to be normal, I think my insides are giving up, even though my mind is telling all my systems to keep going. I don’t even know where to go to find out what is happening to me. Do I go to a place like the Jefferson Clinic, or the Michigan Clinic? Or do I go to an alternative place that tests for food and environmental allergies? Worse yet, I am on disability, have limited savings, and I have no idea what Medicare will pay for.

    I am on the list for a new migraine specialist but do not have a specific app’t yet. I am not expecting much from the app’t because I have already seen the best in the country, but would like to have someone overseeing my refractory, intractable case.

    Right now I feel like I need to change my name from “Tired of Head Pain” to “Confused.”

  6. I’ve not heard of this book, but will look for it.
    I was awarded Disability 3 years ago after losing my last job due to migraines. Since the age of 17 my episodes increased in severity as well as the number of days. All this time I never thought to look for groups on Facebook or blogs of which I could relate. Looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say.

  7. when I got the book, I thought, ‘how does she know me??’…it seemed like she was describing my journey with migraines on those pages. She is not condescending, but rather, sympathetic.

  8. Elaine M. Lemieux – Awesome! I looked online to see if my library had it and they do. I plan on getting it Friday. Did you purchase it? If so, do you have notes written all in it? I’m like that. I make reference to everything! lol

  9. Sara Borders says:

    Virginia–I’m going on almost a year of being out of my job due to a change in my migraine pattern. I’ve been suffering since I was 9, and it was controlled until 2011. Now at 30 I’ve gone a year with daily migraine pain as well as multiple episodes per day. I’ve been diagnosed with atypical chronic migraine. It’s been so hard to get people to understand. These Facebook groups have been so wonderful in being able to find others who understand the daily struggle.

  10. Sara Borders If you have “multiple episodes per day” you should ask your doctor about cluster headaches. After years of having the same symptoms I found a new doctor, got a new dignoses and am getting better treatment. I am by no means headcahe free but it is better.

  11. Jennifer Collins-Gonzalez says:

    Sara Borders , I am so sorry about what you are going through! Know there are many of us out here also suffering from chronic migraines and we DO understand! But, I get what you mean about non-migraine people, very difficult for them to even have a clue about this disease!

  12. YEs, her bok IS a must read..and if you are anywhere near Boston…try toi get in to see her. Se is wonderful! I’ve had most of those symptoms, and never realized until recently that they were all migraine symptoms. Sometimes my skin hurts, not just my scalp and hair. It is so weird. ANd I seem to have tinnitus all the time.

  13. I’ve suffered many symptoms not listed in this article. In The Migraine Brain, by Carolyn Bernstein, I found that my debilitating dizziness and chest tightness were symptoms of an impending migraine. Her advice is to take migraine meds as soon as any symptoms appear. Her book is a must read.

  14. Migraine.com says:

    Hi Joanne – We have several articles which provide information on other symptoms… as you know, there are quite a few to cover! The post on migraine phases (linked to above) has been particularly informative for many people: http://migraine.com/migraine-basics/migraine-phases/ As you mentioned in your post, it is always most effective to treat early which is why we encourage community members to recognize the earliest signs of an attack (Dr. Marcus recently wrote on this topic as well).

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