The Mighty Logo

The 4 Phases of a Migraine

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

It can be really hard for people who don’t experience migraines to understand them. Sometimes even we don’t understand them! Luckily for us, researchers have found that most of us progress through four phases.

Stage 1: Prodromal or Early Warning Phase

This stage takes place several hours to up to two days in advance. And if you’re like me, you tend to the following symptoms: fatigue, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, food cravings, sensitivity to noise or smell or even light and gastrointestinal problems.

The only thing you can do at this stage is take the medicine prescribed by your doctor. Hopefully, this will help you avoid a full-blown migraine.

Stage 2: Aura or Pre-Migraine Phase

This stage can last up to an hour before the headache strikes.

Possible symptoms include changes in vision, such as flickering, shimmering or flashing lights, tunnel vision loss or zigzag lines crossing your line of sight, a tingling feeling or pins and needles in the face and trouble speaking, writing or understanding words.

The best thing to do now is find a dark, quiet room to relax in. Place some ice on your forehead or the back of your neck and definitely use an eye mask to block out all light.

Stage 3: Migraine Headache Phase

This is when the hammer comes down on your head and makes it nearly impossible to function. This can last for hours or up to several days. Mine typically lasts 72 hours.

Symptoms include a throbbing or pulsing pain, sensitivity to sounds, light and smells often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, light-headedness and sometimes fainting. I hate this phase.

Stage 4: Postdrome or After Headache Phase

This stage lasts for a few hours up to two days. This phase comes with the following symptoms: fatigue, irritability, disorientation and pain in the head if you move or bend over too quickly. And you may experience cognitive issues to the point that you may not understand conversations or be able to read a book.

After you have gone through these four stages, you may end up feeling as if you’re getting over the flu. So even after your migraine is gone, it takes a few days before you’re back to normal. And unfortunately, not everyone understands that.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: October 27, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home