Migraine: Causes, Signs & Relief

Woman with closed eyes having a migraine and holding her left temple with her hand

What are migraines?

Migraines are a common headache that affects roughly 1 billion people worldwide.1 They typically involve pain on one side of the head, but people can experience them differently. For example, some have an aura that warns them of an impending headache, while for others, they hit without any warning sign.2 Even each incidence of a migraine can be different. You may experience nausea with one and just head pain with the next migraine.

The frequency of these headaches is often different from person to person. Some people get them just occasionally, while others might experience them frequently. The average rate is two to four migraine headaches each month2. It’s essential to understand these unique forms of headaches to help control them better.

Are there different types of migraines?

There are different classifications of migraine headaches. These would include3:

  • Migraines with aura – This migraine headache comes with an aura, a sensory or visual warning of an impending headache. Auras vary from person to person, but they may include flashing lights, black dots in front of the eyes, a tingling sensation, or problems speaking. An aura can occur 10 to 30 minutes before the migraine starts.
  • Migraine without aura – This is a headache that occurs without an aura. The person experiencing this migraine will develop head pain, typically pulsing on one side of the head. They may also feel nauseous or start to vomit.
  • Aura migraine without headache – These are known as silent migraines. They would include an aura, but no head pain follows it.

What are the signs & stages of migraines?

Migraines are not typical headaches. They come in stages. Understanding the various stages can help you tell the difference between a migraine and a tension headache or another form of head pain.4

The warning stage or prodrome

The prodrome is an initial warning sign of an impending migraine headache and happens a day or two before. It can be different for each person but some common signs include5:

  • Constipation
  • Changes in mood
  • Food cravings
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Increased urination
  • Retaining fluid
  • Yawning


Only one in four people experience an aura with their migraines2 and the typical experiences may include5:

  • Vision loss
  • Visual phenomena like bright spots or flashes
  • Pins and needles sensations
  • Weakness or numbness on one side
  • Trouble speaking

Auras can be very distinctive when they do happen.

Headache Pain

The headache phase is what most people associate with a migraine. This is when the pain is at its peak. You may experience pain on one side of your head or both. It may be more prevalent in the front of the head or the back. The pain will typically be throbbing wherever it occurs, though.

This throbbing is one thing that helps distinguish a migraine from a tension headache. Tension headaches tend to be dull pain4. With a migraine, you may experience other symptoms such as sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting.5

Resolution or Postdrome

After a migraine, it is common to feel excessive fatigue and brain fog and sometimes, sudden head movement may cause pain again5.

Migraines are different for everyone. For most people, through, a migraine will last anywhere from four hours to three days if untreated.5 They can feel different for each person, too. You will generally feel a pounding pain in your heading, though, often behind one eye. That pounding sensation sets them apart from other types of headaches.

What causes migraines?

What are migraines? The exact cause of a migraine is still unclear, partly because they are complicated occurrences. Researchers now understand that changes in blood flow and blood vessels may contribute to the pain, but not necessarily initiate it. Additionally, migraine theory today dictates that chemical compounds and hormones such estrogen and serotonin can often contribute to pain sensitivity for migraines sufferers6.

Often, there is a trigger, such as a specific food or smell. Triggers, like the headaches themselves, can be very personal. What triggers a migraine in one person will not affect another. There are some common triggers, though, such as:5

  • Hormonal changes such as occur with a woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • Alcohol.
  • Food preservatives such as MSG.
  • Loud sounds or bright lights.
  • Physical activity such as exercise.
  • Weather changes like drops in the barometric pressure.
  • Certain medications
  • Food additives such as artificial sweeteners (aspartame) Stress.

Determining your triggers can help you better manage and even avoid migraines.

Migraine pain relief & treatment

How to relieve migraine pain is a common question. Simple self-care can help. Some people may also wonder if caffeine helps to relieve migraine pain. Over-the-counter pain medication such as TYLENOL® Ultra Relief, which contains acetaminophen and caffeine, can help temporarily relieve mild to moderate pain due to headaches and migraines. Each tablet contains 500 mg of acetaminophen (pain reliever) and 65 mg of caffeine. Clinical studies have proven that an acetaminophen and caffeine combination relieve headache pain more effectively than acetaminophen alone.7

It is essential to talk to your doctor about what medications to take. IMPORTANT: You should only take ONE medication at a time containing acetaminophen, the active ingredient in TYLENOL®. To be sure any TYLENOL® product is right for you, always read and follow the label. Follow the instructions on the label carefully, and do not take more than the recommended dose of the medication.

You can also try other home remedies such as:8

  • The first thing you should when you feel a migraine coming on is stop what you’re doing and rest.
  • Find a quiet and dark room to relax in and close your eyes. Try to sleep.
  • Applying an ice pack or cold, moist cloth on your forehead could also help.

How to prevent migraines

Prevention starts with knowing your triggers (food, stress, etc.), especially with migraines. Managing those triggers is best you can do to prevent migraine in the future. A migraine diary could help keep track of triggers and management.

Along with that, it’s important to also8:

  • Manage your stress –Stress is a common trigger for migraines, so being proactive might help prevent them. For instance, you might do yoga or meditate.
  • Get plenty of sleep – Lack of sleep can also be a trigger, so practice good sleep hygiene. For example, go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  • Stay active – Lifestyle can impact your migraines, too. Get plenty of exercise and eat right. Something as simple as a walk in the evening may relax you and help fend off migraines.


Finally, headaches can be symptoms of things other than migraines, too. If you are a migraine sufferer, you must see a doctor if something feels different to you.

Understanding your migraines is the first step in figuring out how to manage them. Start with figuring out what might trigger them for you and how best to treat them. And remember, TYLENOL® provides fast, effective relief of mild to moderate migraine pain.


  1. https://health.sunnybrook.ca/wellness/6-headache-questions-answered/
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5005-migraine-headaches
  3. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/what-type-of-hea...
  4. https://www.tylenol.ca/symptoms/adult/headaches/how-to-spot-a-tension-he...
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptom...
  6. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/headache/...
  7. https://www.tylenol.ca/products/headache-migraine/tylenol-ultra-relief
  8. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/migraine-headaches


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