Diagnosing the Chronic Migraine versus Common Daily Headache

February 3, 2012

One in 20 Americans has a headache every day. Ouch! Most are common (also called tension) headaches that everyone experiences from time to time. These common headaches usually respond to over-the-counter pain relievers. But if you experience a chronic daily headache not related to another medical condition, you may suffer from a chronic migraine. Nearly 30 million Americans do.

While scientists are still searching for conclusive answers about what causes chronic migraines, it is believed that they are caused by the complex interaction between brain chemicals, blood vessels and nerves.

Did you ever wonder if you have a chronic daily headache or a chronic migraine?  You might have both.  A chronic daily headache is a defined as a headache that occurs more than 15 days per month.  Headaches that last more than four hours are classified as a chronic tension-type headache, new daily persistent headache, hemicrania continua or…  chronic migraine.  Below is a checklist to see whether your headache qualifies as a migraine.

Symptom Common Headache Migraine
Throbbing pain on one side No Yes
Nausea, vomiting No Yes
Sensitivity to light & sound Rare Yes
Aura before onset No Yes
Regular frequency No Yes
Pain aggravated by physical activity No Yes

If you have a chronic migraine (a migraine occurring 15 or more days per month), you may want to talk to your physician about treatment options beyond over-the-counter medication.

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