Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyMigraineTeam

Phases of a Migraine

Posted on October 02, 2018

Most doctors describe migraines as having four distinct phases. However, people who get migraines do not necessarily experience all four phases as part of every migraine attack. Phases of a migraine can differ between individuals and types of migraine.

Understanding the phases of migraine can help migraineurs better manage their condition by timing treatments for maximum effectiveness.

Migraine phases

1. Prodrome
Approximately 30 to 40 percent of people who get migraines experience a prodrome phase before headaches begin. The prodrome phase can start hours or days before headache pain begins. For people who have prodromes, this phase can serve as a warning of an impending headache. The prodrome may be referred to as premonitory phase or pre-headache for this reason.

During the prodrome, migraineurs can experience a wide variety of symptoms including mood changes, gastrointestinal symptoms, and cognitive problems. Prodrome can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hyperactivity
  • Frequent yawning
  • Stiff or painful neck
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Food cravings
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Cognitive issues such as difficulty concentrating, speaking, remembering words, or reading

Some people are able to avoid the headache by avoiding triggers or taking treatments during the prodrome phase.

2. Aura
Auras directly proceed migraine attacks in about 20 percent of people with migraine. Auras generally last between five minutes and one hour.

Auras involve changes in perception or neuropsychological function that can include:

  • Visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or blind spots
  • Auditory changes such as hearing music or noise with no source
  • Strange smells
  • Physical sensation such as tingling and numbness in one arm or leg or on one side
  • Sudden changes in personality
  • Cognitive disruptions such as difficulty speaking

3. Headache
The third phase of migraine is the headache itself. Intense head pain, vision changes, photophobia (sensitivity to light), nausea, and vomiting are among the most common aspects of the headache phase.

Read more about symptoms of migraine. Symptoms of migraine differ by type of migraine.

4. Postdrome
About 80 percent of those who get migraines experience the postdrome phase when the pain of migraine subsides. Most people feel intense fatigue during the postdrome. Photophobia may continue in this phase, and some people experience body aches. Depression and anxiety are common. Conversely, some people experience euphoria – an intense feeling of happiness and well-being – after a migraine. Some migraineurs experience cognitive symptoms such as confusion, difficulty speaking, or trouble concentrating.

Some people who get migraines describe the postdrome phase as feeling like a hangover. Postdromes can last for hours or days after a headache.

Resources

External resources


Internal resources



FAQ
When should migraine treatments be taken?

Acute migraine treatments are generally most effective when taken as early as possible in the course of the migraine. If taken early, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aspirin, Advil (Ibuprofen), and Aleve (Naproxen), medications containing caffeine, and triptans such as Imitrex (Sumatriptan), Maxalt (Rizatriptan), and Relpax (Eletriptan) are more likely to be fully absorbed into the bloodstream and at peak effect when the headache begins. Waiting too long can mean that the pain becomes intense before the medication is at full effect. Consider keeping a migraine diary to track your prodrome phases and better predict when headaches will begin. Your doctor can help you plan when to take each medication based on the phases of your migraine.

A MyMigraineTeam Member said:

My symptoms I get are nausea, sensitive to light, noise, cold chills and they usually last 2-3 days. I some times I end up in the hospital due to my… read more

posted 8 days ago

hug (1)

Recent articles

Eye pain and migraines
Article written by Jessica Wolpert Eye pain is a common symptom of migraine headaches. More than...

Eye Pain and Migraines

Article written by Jessica Wolpert Eye pain is a common symptom of migraine headaches. More than...
Weather and migraines
Article written by Laurie Berger If your migraines are impacted by weather conditions, you’re not...

How the Weather Affects Your Migraines

Article written by Laurie Berger If your migraines are impacted by weather conditions, you’re not...
Coronavirus
Article written by Kelly Crumrin Those of us living with pre-existing health conditions such as...

Canceling Is Kindness: Keeping Safe From COVID-19 With Migraine

Article written by Kelly Crumrin Those of us living with pre-existing health conditions such as...
Mht mymsteam resourcecenter article2 carousel how satisfied
Article written by Heather Lapidus Glassner In late 2019, 158 MyMigraineTeam members participated...

How Satisfied Are MyMigraineTeam Members With Their Health Care Providers?

Article written by Heather Lapidus Glassner In late 2019, 158 MyMigraineTeam members participated...
Mht mymsteam resourcecenter article1 carousel who do mymigraineteam members turn
Article written by Heather Lapidus Glassner While diagnosing migraines is generally...

Who Do MyMigraineTeam Members Turn to for Treating Migraines?

Article written by Heather Lapidus Glassner While diagnosing migraines is generally...
Mht mymsteam resourcecenter article3 carousel what does it take
Article written by Heather Lapidus Glassner A good relationship between people with migraine and...

What Does It Take to Be a Good Migraine Doctor?

Article written by Heather Lapidus Glassner A good relationship between people with migraine and...
Mht ad overview thumb
Article written by Kelly Crumrin Migraine is not just a headache. Migraine is a neurological...

Migraine – An Overview

Article written by Kelly Crumrin Migraine is not just a headache. Migraine is a neurological...
Mht ad types thumb
Article written by Kelly Crumrin There are many types of migraine. The two most common types of...

Types of Migraine

Article written by Kelly Crumrin There are many types of migraine. The two most common types of...
Mht ad causesandriskfactors thumb
Article written by Kelly Crumrin Researchers who study migraine have not yet determined what...

Migraine – Causes and Risk Factors

Article written by Kelly Crumrin Researchers who study migraine have not yet determined what...
Mht ad symptoms thumb
Article written by Kelly Crumrin Intense head pain is the most common symptom of migraine, but...

Symptoms of Migraine

Article written by Kelly Crumrin Intense head pain is the most common symptom of migraine, but...
MyMigraineTeam My migraines Team

Two Ways to Get Started with MyMigraineTeam

Become a Member

Connect with others who are living with migraines. Get members only access to emotional support, advice, treatment insights, and more.

sign up

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest articles about migraines sent to your inbox.

Not now, thanks

Privacy policy
MyMigraineTeam My migraines Team

Thank you for signing up.

close