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Migraine Symptoms: A Guide To Migraines At Every Stage

Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, MD · Neurology · Centre Médicale Internationale

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Aug 20, 2022

Migraine Symptoms: A Guide To Migraines At Every Stage

A migraine is a neurological condition and a form of headache. It can cause moderate to severe pain like pulsing and throbbing. According to a 2016 study, around 12 million Filipinos suffer from migraine. Migraines have also been noted as a threat to the work productivity of Filipinos. In this article, we discuss the common migraine symptoms and stages. 

The Migraine Pain

Experts believe that migraine starts when nerve cells become overactive and transmit signals to the trigeminal nerve. This is the nerve that gives sensation to the head and face. This occurrence prompts the body to deliver chemicals such as calcitonin gene-related peptide. As a result, there is swelling in the blood vessels in the brain lining. Consequently, it causes inflammation and pain.

People with migraines often experience them in the morning. For some, migraines can happen at anticipated times, particularly before menstruation or on weekends after a stressful and exhausting week.

Migraines are different for everyone. Read on to learn more about migraine symptoms.

Common migraine symptoms in different stages

Migraines can happen in four phases:

Migraine symptoms: Prodrome

This is also called the premonitory phase or “pre-headache” where the migraine attack can start. A person with a migraine who experiences prodrome can suffer for several hours or, in some cases, several days. The early warning signs of prodrome may include:

Migraine symptoms: Aura

The aura stage can happen before or during migraines. In this stage, each symptom appears gradually then creates a build-up over several minutes. Symptoms can last up to one hour.

During an aura, a person may also experience sensations on the skin and language problems:

  • Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg and, less commonly, numbness (this can spread throughout the body)
  • Having a hard time communicating with others
  • Difficulty in expressing thoughts when writing and speaking
  • Trouble understanding spoken or written words
  • Confusion
  • Trouble concentrating

A person may also experience changes in vision, such as:

  • A flickering light with complicated shapes on the left or right side of a person’s vision 
  • A blind spot or temporary loss of sight that makes it hard to drive or focus on little objects
  • Hallucinations or seeing some images from the past

Other symptoms of an aura stage may include hearing noises or music and uncontrollable jerking.

Migraine Symptoms: Attack

This is when the headache begins. Most of the time, a migraine starts as a minor ache before increasing into pounding pain. Physical activities can worsen the migraine, so it is best to rest when the throbbing occurs. The pain can be in the front of the head, from one side of the head to the other, or be present all throughout the head.

Most migraine headaches attack for about 4 hours, but severe cases can last for more than 3 days if not treated. How often a migraine occurs differ from person to another. It is common to get up to four headaches per month. Other may experience migraines every one to three days, while the lucky ones only get one or two headaches a year.

During this stage, one may experience most of these symptoms:

  • Burning nausea
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and smell
  • Nasal congestion
  • A feeling of an icepick in the head
  • Vomiting
  • Giddiness
  • Insomnia
  • A Drilling feeling
  • Throbbing
  • Anxiety
  • Neck pain and stiffness

Migraine symptoms: Postdrome

A person might feel washed out and drained after a migraine attack, though some cases involve people feeling exhilarated. It is important to know that an abrupt head movement may cause recurring pain during the postdrome stage. Other symptoms include:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood
  • Euphoric mood
  • Lack of comprehension

Getting through the headache does not guarantee that a person will not experience another migraine attack. Some people in the postdrome phase are still likely to encounter migraines if they encounter triggers like vivid lights and strong smells. 

Studies have shown that relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation, avoiding stress, and drinking lots of water are excellent ways to find relief during the postdrome stage.

Key Takeaways

Unfortunately, there is still no cure for migraines, so the most we can do is to avoid the typical triggers of a migraine. Migraine symptoms during the attack stage include nausea, sensitivity to light, nasal congestion, insomnia, and neck pain. If you regularly get migraines, it is best to speak to your doctor or a medical specialist. 

Learn more about the Brain And Nervous System here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Nicole Aliling, MD

Neurology · Centre Médicale Internationale

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Aug 20, 2022

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