Chronic Vs. Episodic Migraines – Know the Difference

Migraines are complex.  For example, did you know there are several types of migraines, and some people experience different symptoms each time? Also, one of the biggest distinguishers from one migraineur to the next is the recurrence of attacks.

To understand this more, I want to take a closer look at the difference between chronic and episodic migraines, which is in the frequency. 

In the U.S., more than 38 million people suffer from migraines. Some researchers believe this number is really closer to 50 million when you factor in those who are currently going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Migraines have no mercy and are unbiased in their attacks.  They go for everyone; however, women are three times more likely to get migraines than men. 

But not all migraine attacks are created equal, even among women. Episodic migraineurs, for one, suffer from fewer than 14 migraines each month for three months, while chronic migraine sufferers have debilitating headaches at least 15 days out of the month over a much longer period. Knowing the differences between episodic migraines (EM) and chronic migraines (CM) will hopefully help you better understand your condition and what you can do about it.

What is Chronic Migraine?

Chronic is “an illness that persists for a long time or constantly recurring.” When it comes to migraines, if you have symptoms that last for more than four hours, and these attacks occur at least 15 days per month, you probably have CM. Far less frequent than episodic migraines, just 1.3 percent of women and 0.5 percent of men in the United States live with this chronic condition.

Symptoms of Chronic Migraine

Some of the most common symptoms associated with chronic migraine include:

●       Moderate to severe pain

●       Usually affects one side of the head

●       Creates a throbbing sensation

●       Worsens with physical activity or exercise

Triggers for chronic migraine include an existing neurological disorder, chemical or hormonal imbalancevascular irregularities, genetics, or environmental factors.

Understanding Episodic Migraines

Episodic migraines are more common than their chronic counterparts and can eventually become chronic. If you notice the frequency of your headaches increasing, you’ll want to address that sooner rather than later.  I am always available for phone consultation if you need help finding a safe and effective treatment plan that doesn’t rely on pharmaceuticals.

Although researchers still don’t know precisely why this happens, it may have something to do with changes to the blood vessels and nerves due to inflammation.

Symptoms of Episodic Migraines

If you experience the following, you may be suffering from EM:

●       More than five migraine attacks in your history

●       Fewer than 15 headaches every month

●       Symptoms that go away in less than 24 hours

Some of the main factors that contribute to episodic migraine include stress and changes in weather. Proper stress management is crucial to your health as a migraineur.

There are a lot of treatment options out there that can effectively treat both chronic and episodic migraines. For example, several recent studies have highlighted the benefits of CBD for migraine relief, and green light therapy can help those with light sensitivity.

Here are some tips to take with you when you’re trying to relieve either chronic or episodic migraines. 

·         Don’t buy into snake oil “cures.”

·         Stay away from doctors who only want to treat symptoms with pharmaceuticals

·         Stay focused and research more on your own.  You are your best advocate. 

Your doctor sees you less than 10% of the time you suffer. You are in charge of your visit, your day, your life.  Keep looking for answers and keep asking questions. You can get your life back.


Migraine Trust – Impact of Chronic Migraine

Migraine Again – Migraine Statistics

American Migraine Foundation – Chronic vs. Episodic Migraine Studied in Migraine Journal