Migraine pain has been called indescribable, yet 35 million Americans know it all too well. Migraine is the French derivation of the Greek word hemikrania, meaning “half a head,” referring to the typical pattern of migraine distress which is the pain only on one side of the head, most often at the temple. The affected side can vary from one attack to the next or during a single episode.
The pain ranges from moderate to severe. Unlike tension headache, migraine headache can keep you from sleeping or rouse you from sound slumber. Most people describe the pain as pulsating or throbbing. It can also be sharp, almost as if a dagger is piercing your temple or eye.
Nausea and vomiting are common during a migraine headache. Likewise, tense head, neck, and shoulder muscles can accompany a migraine headache. In most cases, this is thought to be an involuntary response to the pain, rather than its cause (although tight muscles can trigger a migraine headache). Bright lights and loud noises worsen the pain and may push someone with a migraine headache to seek out quiet, dimly lit places. Similarly, smell may aggravate nausea and cause vomiting.