13 Migraine Symptoms to be Aware of

Nausea and Vomiting

Two of the more common symptoms, nausea and vomiting, are very prevalent in migraineurs. A mail survey, the American Migraine Study II, which studied over 3,700 people with migraines, found that 73 percent had experienced nausea and 29 percent had experienced vomiting.

The National Headache Foundation’s study, the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention study, recently found that people who have frequent nausea that is associated with migraines have pain that is more severe and less receptive to medications than their counterparts without nausea.

The cause of nausea and vomiting with migraine is unknown. They are also often linked to vertigo and dizziness, so it is surmised that there may be an inner ear disturbance.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Just when you thought that your GI system was safe from migraines – you’re wrong.

Migraine may also be linked to irritable bowel syndrome.

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common bowel disorder. It causes either constipation or diarrhea – sometimes both – and is uncomfortable for the person who suffers from it. And researchers have found that people with migraines are more likely to also suffer from IBS.

In fact, a 2005 study found that people with IBS are 25 percent more likely to suffer from headaches. Another study found that children who were treated for constipation had a subsequent improvement in their headaches.

What is the connection?

Possibly serotonin. “Serotonin in the brain is believed to be a cause of migraine. Meanwhile, the intestines are flooded with serotonin during constipation.”


Another possible cause is the prevalence of psychological disorders; people with migraines are more likely to suffer from depression – and people with depression are more likely to have constipation. Also, depression is also linked to serotonin levels in the brain.


Another very common migraine symptom, anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of people may suffer from dizziness and/or balance issues. People with a migraine with aura are even more likely to have migraine-linked vertigo.

Some people with vertigo have a condition called vestibular migraines, which is a migraine that is linked specifically to inner ear issues. However, less than one percent fall into this category.

People with a migraine can experience vertigo at any stage of the migraine – before it occurs, during the migraine, and even when there is no migraine occurring.

Alicia Cook, of the food blog The Dizzy Cook, writes of vertigo, “Living with vertigo or ataxia symptoms caused by vestibular migraine reminds me of when I was young and would willingly go on those questionable, spinning state fair rides – the ones where you could hardly exit because you couldn’t walk a straight line after. Only I couldn’t just end that feeling by getting off the ride. It was a constant battle to keep my eyes open and try to focus them as best as I could.”

The Hangover

At the completion of a migraine, do you feel like you just got done partying with your friends? Like you just spent the weekend in Las Vegas?

Ahhh, yes. The migraine hangover.

Migraines are fatiguing. In fact, recent studies indicate that during the post-migraine period, it is common to feel a loss of energy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, lightheaded, dizzy, and weak.

The “hangover” period is the postdrome stage. It can last up to 24 hours. Because it can last so long, some people can find it just as debilitating as the migraine itself – especially if the migraine was short-lived.

It is important to take time to recover from a migraine and rest during the postdrome; here are some tips on recovery.

What Does a Migraine Feel Like?

It is a misconception that a migraine is a headache – it is a headache, but it is so much more than just a headache, as we’ve discussed above.

So, what does a migraine feel like?

There are times when I am living with a daily headache – these headaches may be minor, but they are no less disrupting to daily life. It feels like there is a tight headband wrapped around my head and it is squeezing just a little bit too tight. Now imagine this feeling for days on end. Fun, right?

Then, there are the times when the migraine hits like a figurative ton of bricks. Excuse the cliché, but regardless of where the migraine strikes, it feels like I have been struck with a heavy object to my skull (perhaps even repeatedly) and that spot is throbbing. And the lights are oh so bright – and everything is so dang loud…

According to several community members from The Mighty, here are a couple of explanations of what a migraine feels like:

  • “Light is like a million needles sticking you in the eyes. Sounds are amplified as if you’re in the front row of a rock concert. Did I mention it’s a band you hate? Smells that you normally find delightful make your stomach turn. The thought of food leaves you searching for a wastebasket. But the hardest part is the pounding in your head. It’s so intense, so debilitating, it makes you question your existence.”
  • “I gave birth vaginally with no drugs. It hurt like hell. I’d rather do that again anytime that have a migraine. At least with birth I know it’s going to end at some point.”
  • “For me, it usually feels like someone is trying to scoop my left eye out with a spoon. All day, every day after day after day.”

The Bottom Line…

Migraines are fraught with symptoms. And if you’re like me, you may not have known that some of your symptoms were even related to your migraine.

What’s more, the symptoms can be confusing! What symptoms are from the prodrome… what symptoms are attributed to the aura… What symptoms are from the migraine?

You can keep track of your migraines and your symptoms on an app like Migraine Buddy, which does a great job compiling data and asking for user data, such as symptomology about the prodrome and migraine stage.


Health (18 Signs You’re Having a Migraine)

Migraine Again (Backed Up and In Pain: the Link Between Migraine and Constipation)

Migraine Again (How to Know if You Have Migraine-Related Vertigo)

Migraine Again (The Migraine Babble: Why Your Words Get Jumbled)

Migraine.com (Migraine Food Cravings Symptoms: An Introduction)

Migraine.com (Migraine Vision Changes Symptoms: An Introduction)

Migraine.com (Nausea With or Without Vomiting)

Migraine.com (Sensory Aura)

Migraine Relief Center (Neck Pain and Migraines: What’s the Connection)

PubMed (Migraine and Yawning)

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by Jaime Sanders on July 27, 2017
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