Stages of a Migraine

Everyone gets a headache from time to time. Maybe you didn’t have enough water one day or maybe your sinuses are flaring up, but no matter how you might get your headache, there is something different about a migraine. Migraines are more than just an inconvenience, they can be debilitating and devastating for those who suffer them. If you suffer from chronic, extreme headaches, you could be having migraines.

How do you know if you have a migraine, or a common headache?

In honor of Migraine Awareness Month, we’re going to discuss the signs and symptoms of this acute pain condition, as well as discuss treatment options.

What is a migraine, anyway?

Migraines are severe headaches that can involve severe throbbing or pulsing sensations. Usually, they are on one side of the head, and can last for hours. Migraines can cause vomiting, nausea, dizziness, and light and sound sensitivity, which often make them feel like more than the average headache.

While there is no single cause for a migraine, people who have them regularly might be able to pinpoint when they will be getting one by the appearance of certain trends and triggers. Migraines, generally, go through four stages, and it is in those stages that treatment techniques can be found.

Stages of a Migraine

The beginnings of a migraine can happen up to two days before the pain actually begins. This is known as the prodrome stage, and it acts as a warning system for many people who suffer from migraines. Prodrome can include symptoms like:

  • Constipation
  • Mood changes
  • Food cravings
  • Neck stiffness
  • Extreme thirst or urination
  • Excessive yawning

These symptoms can indicate that a migraine will happen soon, which gives patients a window to take pre-emptive measures in finding treatment.

The second stage is the aura stage of a migraine, and this one can happen right before, or during a migraine, but not all migraines have aura stages. The aura stage can affect the nervous system, usually noted by disturbances or distortions in vision, touch sensations, movement, or hearing.  If a migraine has an aura stage, then the symptoms tend to build gradually over a short period of time and can persist for an hour. Aura stages usually bring additional symptoms to a migraine like:

  • Seeing shapes, bright spots, or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles feeling on arms or legs
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hearing noises or music
  • Twitches or uncontrollable moments

These symptoms are not common in migraines, as most people do not have aura stages. But if you do, it might be another indicator of approaching migraines, or that a migraine is about to get more severe.

The attack stage of a migraine is when the migraine is at its worst. This is when the pain sets in, and a patient might be left suffering for up to 72 hours, unless they seek treatment. For some, they are rare occurrences but for others, they happen regularly. You will know you are in the attack stage of your migraine if you feel:

  • Extreme pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Throbbing, pulsing pain
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness or fainting

The attack stage is almost always the most difficult stage for a patient to experience. These symptoms can be persistent and intense, so if you or someone you love has migraine issues, find out where you can get treated in your area.

Finally, migraines end with the post-drome stage. This is the after shocks of a migraine, when you feel tired and worn out.  It is common to feel confused, dizzy, moody, and still sensitive to lights and sounds during the post-drome stage. Rest and recovery are the best ways to manage it.

When should I get treatment?

Since migraines can be confused for regular headaches sometimes, they often go undiagnosed or untreated. This shouldn’t be the case, and if you experience migraines often, start taking notes about when you have them and how long they last. Make an appointment with a doctor to talk about managing them for the long term.

If your migraines are severe, though, and you need help getting through one, seek immediately medical attention. If you experience any migraines that feel like a thunderclap, cause fevers, or have resulted from a physical injury, then consult with a physician.


Hear from one of our doctors about the stages of a migraine below!

Victoria ER is open 24/7, and our special Observation Care Program specializes in managing the severe affects of acute pain conditions, like a migraine. Our concierge-level service is here to help you get through any stage of a migraine.

Nutex Health, Inc.supports you and your family’s health. Come visitVictoria ER or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.