Skip to main content

Understanding the Stages of Migraines

Understanding the Stages of Migraines

Few types of pain compare to migraine pain. It seems to come out of nowhere and zaps you for hours or days. 

As a board-certified pain specialist, Dr. Dinash Yanamadula at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Edgewater and Lawrenceville, New Jersey, diagnoses and treats migraine disease often. Whether occasional or chronic, migraine attacks are more than just a headache, unique to each individual, and can be tricky to predict and treat. 

Here, Dr. Yanamadula explains how migraine disease behaves, so you can learn to recognize the signs of an impending attack and take action to reduce or prevent it. 

Stage 1: Prodrome

Prodrome, often described as the precursor to a migraine attack, begins a few hours and up to a few days before the migraine attack. Most people with migraine disease experience this stage with most, if not all of their attacks. 

Symptoms in this stage vary from person to person and can include any combination of the following:

Learning to spot these warning signs can help you take proactive steps to mitigate your upcoming migraine attack. Dr. Yanamadula can prescribe medication that may lessen the severity of your symptoms.

Stage 2: Aura

Only about 25-30% of people with migraine disease experience the aura stage. In fact, we diagnose those who do in a separate category: migraine with aura. Even those within this group don’t experience an aura phase with every attack. When they do, the aura typically hits before the headache stage, although it can appear afterward. The aura involves any of the following sensory disturbances:

The aura stage can last 5-60 minutes. Only about 20% of people who have migraine with aura experience an aura that lasts longer than an hour. 

Stage 3: The headache

The headache phase is the most recognizable part of the migraine attack timeline, but everyone experiences the symptoms differently. You may feel pain on one or both sides of your head. It may be mild or debilitating and last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Some of the most common symptoms during the headache stage include:

The headache phase often forces you to take refuge in a dark, quiet room where you can rest and avoid things that aggravate your symptoms.

Stage 4: Postdrome

Once the headache stage subsides, your migraine attack may still go through the final stage called postdrome. About 80% of people with migraine disease experience this after-effect, often called a “migraine hangover.” 

Depression, fatigue, and lack of concentration are hallmarks of the postdrome phase, but some people have the opposite response and feel giddy or euphoric. 

Preventing and treating migraine disease

Why some people develop migraine disease and others don’t is still being researched, but we do know a lot about what triggers an attack. Identifying and avoiding the things that trigger your attacks is an essential part of your treatment. Common triggers include:

Knowing your triggers can help you prevent migraine attacks. If an attack occurs despite your best efforts, Dr. Yanamadula develops a treatment plan that includes pain management during and after your attacks.

If you suffer from migraine attacks, get the support you need to manage your symptoms and regain control of your life. Contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment with Dr. Yanamadula.  

You Might Also Enjoy...

Why Pain Sustained During an Auto Collision is Often Delayed

Why Pain Sustained During an Auto Collision is Often Delayed

You hear the brakes screeching, the wheels skidding, and the metal crunching — then everything stops. You’re thankful to be alive, and surprisingly, you have no pain — yet. Here’s why the pain may set in later and what you can do about it.

Are There Different Types of Headaches?

No one gets through life without at least one headache, and most experience several — but they aren’t all the same. In fact, there are more than 150 distinct types, making it tough to know how to treat them. Here’s how to differentiate them.
Understanding Your Treatment Options for Sciatica

Understanding Your Treatment Options for Sciatica

Sciatica — that shocking pain that travels from your lower back through your hips and down your leg — can stop you in your tracks. Here’s an overview of the most effective approaches to get you back in action. 

Treating Your Arthritis with Physical Therapy

You’ve always known about arthritis, but you never truly knew arthritis until it hit you. Now, you realize how little you know and are searching for treatments. Surprisingly, physical therapy is your best bet — here’s why.