Difference Between Migraine and Tension Headache

There are numerous distinct forms of headaches, each of which can cause distinctive symptoms such a throbbing, pulsing, or stabbing pain. Both tension headaches and migraines are among the most prevalent types of headaches. The sharp pain in your temples is something that most people have experienced is a certain type of headache.

Headaches are a prevalent health issue. Most people go through one at some point in their lives. However, they are not all the same. More than 100 different types of headaches are categorised by medical professionals. Most people's headaches result in modest aches or pains and only occur periodically (every once in a while). In this article we will understand the difference between them.

What is Migraine?

Migraine is described as a severe headache that comes to mind for the majority of people when they hear the phrase "migraine." However, migraines can also cause other symptoms, including headaches, which can vary in intensity and duration.it Involves neuronal connections and chemicals, migraines are a neurological condition. The related headache often occurs on one side of the head, is pulsing in character, may be of moderate to severe intensity, and may continue for a few hours to three days.

In addition to sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, non-headache symptoms can include nausea and vomiting. Physical exertion often makes the pain worse during an attack, however regular exercise may help avoid attacks in the future.

The phases of migraine consist of the −

  • The prodrome phase, also known as the pre-headache phase, is characterised by painless sensations that start several hours or days before the migraine really manifests. These include changes in mood, cravings for certain foods, and neck stiffness.

  • Phase of auras − Before or during a migraine, there may be sensory abnormalities known as auras. The ability to see, feel, or speak may be affected by auras, however not everyone who has migraines gets them.

  • Phase of the headache when pain normally begins to manifest; it may be minor or extremely painful. Pain may become more intense with physical activity, exposure to light, music, and scents.

  • Phase following the prodrome: This is the stage after the agony has passed. During this time, people could feel worn out, baffled, or just simply ill.

What is Tension Headache?

The most frequent kind of primary headache is a tension headache, commonly referred to as a stress headache or a tension-type headache (TTH). It usually affects both sides of the head, but the pain may also radiate from the neck, eyes, lower back of the head, or other body muscles. Almost 90% of headaches are of the tension variety. The most frequent kind of headaches are tension headaches. Mild to moderate discomfort around the head, face, or neck is frequently caused by these headaches. Generally speaking, stress headaches are not regarded as serious by medical professionals.

The term "tension-type headache" may be used by your doctor to describe your tension headache. Tension headaches can be effectively treated with painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol. There are two basic categories that healthcare professionals use to categorise tension headaches.

They determine the type based on how many and how frequently you experience headaches. Periodic tension-type headaches occur less frequently (fewer than 15 days a month). If you experience one or fewer headaches per month, your healthcare provider might refer to them as "infrequent." When you experience more days with a headache than without one, you have a chronic tension headache. For more than three months in a row, chronic tension headaches occur 15 or more days per month.

Similarities between Migraine and Tension Headache

  • Both tension-type headaches and migraines are caused by the same factors.

  • Both tension-type headaches and migraines include not getting enough sleep, not eating food, consuming more alcohol.

Differences between Tension Headache and Migraine

The following table highlights the major differences between Migraine and Tension Headache −


Tension Headache



It is not recurring and is less intense

It is a recurring throbbing headache and is more intense.


Affects around the head, behind the eyes, head and neck.

Affects only one part of the head.


The discomfort may be compared to an extremely tight band around the forehead or to strain in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. In most cases, daily tasks can be completed despite pain

Throbbing pain on part of the head, nausea, sensitivity to bright light,certain sounds and worsening of the pain due to physical exertion.

Prevalence in terms of population

Most common type of headache.

Around more than 12 percent of the people experience this.

Basis of Age

Children can experience tension headaches up to elderly people.

Ages between 15 to 55 tend to experience migraine more.

Prevalence in terms of gender

Both men and women tend to experience tension headaches, but it's most prevalent in women.

Both men and women experience migraines.

Migraines affect the person’s head in a unilateral location, whereas a tension headache affects the person in a bilateral location. Migraines can be so severe that they make it difficult for you to carry out regular tasks, whereas tension headaches are relatively mild. During migraines a person feels nauseous and vomiting is frequent, whereas during tension headaches nausea is not very common.


Tension headaches are a common occurrence. But that doesn't mean you have to put up with the discomfort. Minor discomfort may be sufficiently alleviated by over-the-counter painkillers. Ask your provider for advice if you experience headaches on a regular basis. Many people can lessen the impact of tension headaches on their lives by using medication and stress reduction techniques. You have a variety of options, including massage, meditation, exercise, and talking to a trusted friend. The stress-management technique that works best for you and feels right to you is the one.

Updated on: 24-Jan-2023


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