Migraine Stages: Overview

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


Migraine is a common neurological disorder that affects approximately 1 in 12 people in the United States. It is characterized by a severe throbbing headache, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and sensitivity to smell.

Migraine is thought to be caused by changes in the brain’s pain system that result in throbbing headaches.

These changes occur when neurons grow abnormally close together or spread out too far from each other within the brain, which causes pain signals to be sent faster than normal and results in a headache.

There is no cure for migraines, but there are treatments that can help you manage your condition.

If you have a migraine and you start to have pain at the back of your head, especially if it lasts for several hours, and if you have any other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or extreme sensitivity to light or sound, it is better to seek help than to suffer.

There are plenty of newer drugs available to treat migraines.

How to Define Migraine?

Migraine is a disorder that affects the brain, causing pain on one side of the head. Pain is defined as a pulsating headache, and there are many different types of migraines. Some are more painful than others.

It’s estimated that as many as 50 million people worldwide suffer from them. Migraine is also among the most frequent causes of disability in industrialized countries.

Migraines tend to occur in cycles, with attacks occurring every few days or even weekly at times.

Each attack is characterized by throbbing pain on one side of the head or face, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. These symptoms can last anywhere from two to 72 hours (although they tend to be shorter).

The causes of Migraine are still at research level. However, they are thought to result from changes in blood vessel structure in the brain. In some cases, they may also be triggered by hormonal fluctuations, stress, or other factors.

  • A family history of migraines
  • If you are a female
  • or belong to the age group of 18 years to 45 years, you are at risk of getting migraine,

Migraine runs in families, and if you have an underlying medical condition like seizures, depression, stress, anxiety, or bipolar disease, all can trigger a migraine attack.

Phases of Migraine

These three phases of migraine are seen in most people with migraine. It doesn’t mean that all people are having migraine attacks and phases the same way.

There are four phases of migraines.

  • Prodromal Phase
  • Aura
  • Headache
  • Prodromal Phase

Prodromal Phase

The premonitory phase is another name for this phase. This appears prior to the headache.

The symptoms of the prodromal phase are as below.

  • Fatigability
  • Mood changes
  • Sugar or food cravings
  • Frequent yawning
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Neck stiffness
  • Fluid retention

Time period

These symptoms appear 1 to 2 days prior to the headache.

Treatment of the Prodromal Stage

At this stage of migraine, the treatment mainly focuses on symptom management.

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking.
  • Proper hydration means drinking more than 8 cups of water.
  • Sleep well and rest.
  • Avoid stress and practice deep breathing for relaxation.
  • Gentle exercises


Among migraineurs, 25% of individuals feel an aura. Classic migraine is the term used to call a migraine with an aura.

There are different types of migraine with or without aura.

Is having an aura painful? Some people believe aura is a blessing, so you can get preventive medicine before the headache. Some people have an aura without a headache and suffer from an aura for 2–3 days.

Whatever the cause, migraine is a debilitating disease.

People might experience different types of auras. Among those, visual auras are the commonest type.

Visual Aura

This is characterized by a zig-zag line, flashes, and a dot-like spectrum.

Motor Aura

The motor aura has jerky movements, twitches, and muscle weaknesses.

Sensory Aura

The sensory aura is characterized by a tingling sensation in the hands and strong odors.

Hearing Aura

There may be ringing in the ears and sensitivity to loud noises.

The Time Period of the Aura

Duration: few minutes to an hour


Preventive and relieving medications can be taken at the beginning of the aura to prevent headaches.


This phase will begin in the following week. The typical pain will begin unilaterally or bilaterally and will increase in severity later. This pain will appear moderate to severe in its intensity and throbbing in nature.

A headache will accompany the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty seeing lights and hearing sounds.
  • Gastritis and loss of appetite
  • Pain will be aggravated with movement.

Time Period

The migraine headache will last for 4 hours to 3 days.


There are pharmacological treatments with medications.


The medicines can be antiemetic, relieving, and preventive.


Metoclopramide. Ondansetron


NSAIDs, Tylenol, Triptans


triptans, anti-seizure medicines

It is advised to take migraine medications early at the onset of migraine to reduce suffering.

Cold Ice Packs

These cold packs might cause vasoconstriction and thus reduce the intracranial pressure.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Staying conscious of your headache will help to change your daily routine and begin relaxation techniques.

Ginger Tea

The clinical trials of migraine with ginger tea have helped to relieve symptoms of migraine.

Prodromal Phase

During this stage, the patient will feel fatigued, depressed, and have a hangover.

  • Confusion or drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Euphoric Symptoms
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches may occur.

The prodromal stage will finish in 24 to 48 hours.


The postdrome stage’s severity and duration can be reduced via prompt treatment. Preventive drugs are the key drugs to manage migraine symptoms.

Keeping a headache diary to identify the triggers and durations of symptoms may help to self-heal migraine wisely.

Other non-pharmacological methods such as acupuncture and massage will help to treat migraines.

When to Visit the Hospital?

Migraines can be painful when they’re severe enough to cause nausea or vomiting. You may also have auras (vivid visual disturbances) or numbness in the face or arms if it’s severe enough to affect your vision or motor skills.

  • If you’ve had a migraine for more than three weeks without treatment and it’s affecting your daily functioning, see your doctor right away!
  • If you have frequent migraine headaches, it’s important that you see your doctor right away so they can find out why they keep coming back!
  • If the pattern of your headache has changed and if there is an increase in severity, it is time to go to the hospital.
  • Fever
  • Weakness of one side of the body
  • Slurring speech
  • Confusion or coma
  • Thunderclap headache

All of the above are reasons to visit your physician immediately.


TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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