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May 02, 2017

Migraines and tension headaches: Different afflictions

While the majority of headaches pose no health threat, they are nevertheless bothersome and even debilitating at times. Let’s shed light on the two most prevalent types: tension headaches and migraines. 

Tension headaches

More frequent among women than men, tension headaches are a common problem often associated with psychosomatic factors, such as stress, anxiety and fatigue. They can also be linked to depression.  

Symptoms of a tension headache

This type of headache can occur at any age and causes mild to moderate pain. Sufferers experience constant, vice-like pressure on both sides of their head. They may also present tension around the eyes, temples, neck and back of the neck.  

In most cases, the pain develops gradually and can persist without interruption for hours, even days. Of course, if you have had a headache for several days, talk to your doctor. He will try to identify the underlying causes of the pain and may decide to send you for some tests. 


Relaxation is an effective way to combat tension headaches. Rest should be your treatment of choice. If this fails, however, discuss other options with your pharmacist. He or she can recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen, acetaminophen or acetylsalicylic acid (commonly called ASA or aspirin), to ease your pain. Your pharmacist will also advise you on the best product for you based on your patient file. 


As with tension headaches, migraines are more likely to affect women than men. They are thought to be caused by dilated and inflamed blood vessels surrounding the brain. However, despite many scientific studies into this ailment, its precise origin remains unknown at this time. 


Migraines cause moderate to severe pulsating or throbbing pain in the cranial area. The pain can often be felt on one side of the head only or near the eye, but it can also affect the whole head. They are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. During an episode, most sufferers will also experience sensitivity to light, noise and smells.  . 

Before an episode, some migraine sufferers may experience specific warning signs like a visual aura (lightning flashes, distortions, blind spots, etc.), physical changes (numbness, tingling, etc.), a feeling of weakness or difficulty talking. These indications can sometimes help the patient to take action before the pain sets in. It is also important to know that migraine symptoms develop gradually and that an episode can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours.

Recourse to over-the-counter medications (i.e. ibuprofen) or prescription drugs is often necessary to treat a migraine. For more information about this topic, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.     


The use of over-the-counter drugs (e.g., ibuprofen) or prescription medication will often be necessary to treat a migraine. It’s critical to start treatment at the first signs of symptoms to halt the attack. The longer you wait, the higher the chance that the medicine will not work or that nausea or vomiting will set in, making it more difficult to take the medicine.  

Recurring migraines

Some people have only a few migraines per year, while other experience them on a weekly basis. Preventive treatments to reduce the number and intensity of migraines can be used for frequent sufferers. The drugs used to prevent migraines are not the same as the ones used to treat them. They need to be taken daily, even on migraine-free days. 

Pharmacy services

If you have questions about treating tension headaches or migraines, speak with your family pharmacists for advice on effective ways to find relief. . 

If you are taking a preventive drug to control your migraines, remember that pharmacists are authorized to adjust your prescription dose* in order to help you reach your treatment goals. 

A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can evaluate your needs and make sure you meet the related criteria. To avail yourself of the dose adjustment service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.  

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The Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.