Headaches vs. Migraines: Identify. Treat. Prevent. | MOBE

Headaches vs. Migraines: Identify. Treat. Prevent.

Over 15% of the population suffers from headaches and migraines daily.1 There are many types of headaches, including sinus, tension, cluster, or migraine. Each one comes with its own set of unique symptoms and triggers. Some common triggers can include general stress or anxiety, diet, sleep disruption, strained muscles, light or sound, caffeine, and alcohol. Triggers may also be caused by things out of your control, such as your hormones, genetics, weather, or allergies. Luckily, knowing the different triggers can help you take the first step in forming prevention techniques, lifestyle strategies, and ongoing treatment options.

5 ways to identify the differences between headaches and migraines.

Common treatment options.

Your treatment plan depends on the type of headache you have, the frequency of headaches, and the severity of them. It’s important to understand that headache medications and lifestyle strategies are not a cure, but a way to manage your symptoms. All headache and migraine treatment plans should be individualized after talking with your health care provider.

Both common headaches and migraines can be treated with over the counter (OTC) or prescription medications. Many OTC medications are used to self-treat mild to moderate headaches. Examples include:2

  • Acetaminophen, like Excedrin® Migraine
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Natural supplements, like peppermint oil or magnesium

If you experience migraines, you may be prescribed a medication to treat migraine symptoms or even help prevent them from occurring. This could be anything from a pill to nasal spray to injections. The medication prescribed can vary based on your needs, symptoms, and severity. You can always discuss potential treatment options with your health care provider and a MOBE Pharmacist to determine a treatment plan that works best for you.

Non-medication treatment options.

While medications can help with pain and discomfort, there are many non-medication strategies you can try when you are experiencing a headache or migraine.3 Every person responds differently, so it’s important to try one strategy at a time until you find one that works best for you. Here are just a few:

  • Use ice packs on your forehead.
  • Sit in a quiet, dark room.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks.
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water.
  • Try acupuncture or massage therapy.

Prevention strategies.

Prevention is an important component of headache and migraine management. While some people may require prescription medications to help prevent headaches or migraines from frequently occurring, others may be able to prevent them through lifestyle changes. Similar to treatment options, the type of prevention strategy may vary between individuals. Some common prevention techniques include:

  • Experimenting with breathing techniques.
  • Taking short breaks throughout your day.
  • Finding an exercise or movement activity you enjoy.
  • Being sure to get enough quality sleep.
  • Trying not to skip meals or eat foods that trigger your symptoms.
  • Reducing caffeine intake, especially close to bedtime.

If you aren’t sure where to start, try a headache journal. In your journal, it helps to include when your headache or migraine occurs, what your routine was for the past 24 hours, any potential triggers you experienced, the severity or length of the headache or migraine, and any other notable characteristics. Over time, you’ll potentially be able to identify patterns that can help you make meaningful lifestyle changes.

Have other questions for your MOBE team?

It may be possible to move toward headache-free days by identifying your triggers, making small lifestyle changes, and exploring potential treatment options. A MOBE Pharmacist or Guide is ready to help you create a daily routine and healthier habits that are likely to reduce recurring headaches and migraines. Get started today.


1. Lars Jocob Stovner, Knut Hagen, Mattias Linde, Timothy J. Steiner, “The Global Prevalence of Headache: An Update, With Analysis of the Influences of Methodological Factors on Prevalence Estimates,” The Journal of Headache and Pain 23, no. 1: 34, https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10194-022-01402-2

2. Julie J. Wilkinson and Katherine Tromp, “Headache,” in Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs: An Interactive Approach to Self-Care (Washington, D.C.: American Pharmacists Association, https://pharmacylibrary.com/doi/10.21019/9781582123172.ch5.

3. “Migraines: Simple Steps to Head Off the Pain,” Mayo Clinic, October 4, 2022, accessed June 29, 2023, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/in-depth/migraines/art-20047242.