What Are the Different Stages of a Migraine Attack?

Migraine affects around 39 million individuals in the United States, including children. Migraine is a neurological disorder involving neurological symptoms, not only a headache.

Migraine symptoms may include:

  • severe throbbing pain, typically on one side of the head
  • visual disturbances
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • heightened sensitivity to light, smell, and touch
  • tingling or numbness in the face or extremities

Migraine may be a chronic condition that has a significant impact on one’s quality of life, making it a major health problem. Knowing the phases of migraine may help you manage the symptoms early on and perhaps reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Stage 1: Prodrome

Source: Healthline
Source: Healthline

The prodrome stage, also known as the premonitory phase, might begin one to three days before the headache arises.

Symptoms can include:

  • desires for food
  • fatigue
  • depressed state
  • hyperactivity
  • irritability
  • stiffness or discomfort in the neck
  • difficulty focusing
  • light or sound sensitivity
  • yawning

Migraine relief

The key to preventing a migraine attack is early detection and treatment. Treatments are more likely to be helpful if they are started early, rather than waiting to see whether the symptoms worsen. If you’ve been given a migraine medicine, such as a triptan, using it during the prodrome period might help you avoid a migraine attack.

Stage 2: Aura

Auras may not appear in every migraine attack. Aura appears in around one-third of migraine attacks. The headache is accompanied by neurological symptoms (the aura) roughly 10 to 30 minutes before the headache in persons who suffer migraine with aura. Auras are characterized by visual symptoms such as flashing lights, zigzag lines, and blind patches. Aura symptoms may also include:

  • numbness or tingling in the face or limb
  • Taste, smell or touch deficits or disruptions
  • facial or limb weakness
  • partial blindness
  • changes in speech

Rescue treatments for migraine

Applying a cold compress to your brow will help reduce discomfort. Also, if you’ve been given a migraine medicine, using it might help reduce symptoms.

Among these drugs are:

  • Acetaminophen and other over-the-counter (OTC) medications (Tylenol)
  • Triptans such as rizatriptan and sumatriptan
  • dihydroergotamine
  • anti-nausea medication
  • gepants such as ubrogepant and rimegepant
  • ditans, such as lasmiditan

Stage 3: Headache

The headache stage is characterized by the characteristic throbbing pain of a migraine headache. This may last anywhere from a few hours to many days. The average duration is around 4 hours.

Symptoms might range from mild to severe, but they may include:

  • improved light and sound sensitivity
  • nauseousness, vomiting, or both
  • dizziness
  • throbbing or pulsating pain in the head or neck
  • changes in mood
  • Sleeping problems

Migraine treatment

Most migraine remedies are most effective when given as soon as the symptoms occur. For this reason, many individuals keep their medicine with them at all times. If you are unable to take your medicine as soon as symptoms arise, take it as soon as you are able.

Some patients benefit from over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen. If none of these work, a prescription drug may be required. Prescription drugs are classified into various categories:

Triptans. These help to keep the chemicals in the brain in check. Sumatriptan, rizatriptan, and zolmitriptan are a few examples.

Ergot derivatives. These operate similarly to triptans. Ergotamine tartrate and dihydroergotamine are two examples.

Gepants. These are a more recent sort of treatment. To treat migraine headaches, they target receptors on sensory nerves.

Ditans. These, too, are quite new. Ditans do not impact blood vessels, therefore they may be preferable for elderly people who have a history of heart disease or stroke.

It is sometimes necessary to experiment with various drugs in order to discover the one that works best for you. Consult a doctor if your present therapy isn’t alleviating your symptoms or working for you.

Stage 4: Postdrome

A migraine hangover is another term for the postdrome period. It begins after the headache’s peak agony has subsided. Migraine may have a wide-ranging impact on the body. The ensuing pain or discomfort may occur everywhere in the body during the postdrome period.

Postdrome may continue 24 to 48 hours, although it does not impact everyone and does not have to happen after every headache. People suffering from migraine may experience the stage in a variety of ways, and not everyone’s symptoms will be the same.

Postdrome symptoms may include:

  • fatigue
  • The ache in the body
  • mental “fogginess”
  • dehydration
  • depressed mood
  • euphoric mood
  • trouble concentrating


You may decrease or avoid postdrome effects by doing the following:

  • Keeping hydrated during the migraine attack
  • After a headache, stretch or engage in mild exercises.
  • decreasing stress as much as possible
  • avoiding migraine triggers as much as possible
  • Using a migraine medicine early in the attack

When to contact a Doctor

Consult a physician if:

  • You have many headaches every month, each ranging from a few hours to a few days.
  • Your headaches interfere with your ability to work, live at home, or attend school.
  • You are experiencing nausea, vomiting, or sensory abnormalities in addition to your headaches.
  • You’re suffering from terrible headaches and a stiff neck.
  • You are experiencing ear or eye aches.
  • Your headaches just started out of the blue.

Can you feel if you’re about to have a migraine attack?

Because of the related sensory abnormalities, some individuals may detect the onset of a migraine attack. There are certain migraine causes that are well-known. Avoiding these factors will help you lower your chances of experiencing a migraine attack. It’s difficult to foresee a migraine attack before any symptoms appear.

Understanding the difference between a headache and a migraine may also be beneficial.

In Conclusion

Migraine progresses via many phases. Although not everyone may experience all of the phases at the same time, and symptoms might vary, understanding the main stages can aid in getting therapy and reducing symptoms.

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