What are the stages of a migraine attack?

Everyone has the capability to have a headache. If you hit someone hard enough over the head, it will hurt. They will get a headache.

Migraine is not just a bad headache however. It is a neurological disease/disorder affecting the brain and often many other parts of our bodies. Some Migraine attacks do not even involve pain in our head.

Several things may happen to our bodies during a Migraine attack. Migraine attacks have several stages. Each Migraineur is different from the next, and each Migraine attack they experience will likely be different from the last. An attack may include any one or more of these stages:

  • Prodrome
  • Aura
  • Headache
  • Postdrome

Prodrome is the premonitory phase. About 80% of Migraineurs experience prodrome, although their friends and family may actually be the first to notice something about the patient doesn’t seem ‘quite right’. Prodrome is not focused on any particular area of the brain.

Aura is a very dramatic, focalized result of the brain’s (electrical) wave of spreading cortical depression. Aura is most often visual or hallucinogenic in nature, although it may be sensory or motor as well. Some auras can be so profound as to mimic a stroke. Only a small percentage of Migraineurs experience aura.

Headache is the most common phase of a Migraine attack, although not all Migraines are painful.

Some physicians include headache resolution as a separate phase of Migraine.

Postdrome is the last phase of the attack and occurs past the point of headache resolution. Commonly called a ‘Migraine hangover’ these symptoms may persist 1-2 days past the headache phase.

A Migraine attack without prodrome, aura or postdrome is still called a Migraine. A Migraine without headache pain is called Acephalgic Migraine.

Did you know about the stages of a Migraine attack? Have you ever experienced Migraines without one or more of the stages?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com 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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