Types of Migraine and Recurring Headaches

Migraine is not just migraine. There are many different types, presenting with different symptoms. Especially kids and teens might experience less typical symptoms.
scan of a brain

Share This Post

You may hear the terms ‘migraine’ and ‘headache’ thrown around quite a bit. They are often used quite generally – people tend to use the terms to refer to any throbbing pain felt in the head or face area. However, migraine is a very complex neurological condition. In fact, there is more than just one type of migraine. Each type of migraine may involve different symptoms, and they are treated in different ways.

Let’s take a look at the specific different types of migraine that people suffer from. Most of these types of migraine fall into one of two categories:

  • Migraine without Aura
  • Migraine with Aura

Migraine without Aura (sometimes called Common Migraine) is the type of migraine most sufferers experience: 60% to 85% of children who suffer from migraine will experience migraine without aura. As the name suggests, it usually skips the first two warning stages of a migraine attack (prodrome and aura) and so it can be difficult to predict when an attack is going to happen. On the other hand, Migraine with Aura (also referred to as Classic Migraine), includes the phase in which visual disturbances (and other changes to the senses) are experienced. Because aura often serves as a warning sign that the pain of the main attack stage is approaching, anyone who experiences migraine without aura can usually tell ahead of time that they are going to face the throbbing sensations that come along with a headache.

Besides these two main types of migraine, there are many other sub-types. Some examples of these include:

Chronic Migraine

If you suffer from chronic migraine, you will experience an attack on at least 15 days of a month, for more than 3 months. This type of migraine is very rare – less than 1% of the population suffer from it. Because attacks happen so frequently with chronic migraine, it means it can have a really big impact on sufferers’ day to day lives. As with most types of migraine, there are no specific causes (although some sufferers can identify particular triggers) and treatments vary from therapies to medication. That being said, using medication too frequently to help reduce the symptoms is linked to overuse in chronic migraine sufferers. Because medication overuse can lead to further complications, it is really important that anyone who faces chronic migraine gets the best possible support for them being visiting a doctor or a neurologist.

Menstrual Migraine

Those who suffer from menstrual migraine usually experience headaches around 2 days before the start of their period. These headaches can then carry on for up to 3 days after their period has ended. It is estimated that menstrual migraine (which is usually without aura) affects fewer than 10% of women in the population. However, this figure may actually be higher – there is some evidence to suggest that girls may suffer from monthly menstrual migraines even before their periods start.

Hemiplegic Migraine

Hemiplegic migraine is one of the rarer types of migraine and entails an intense aura as part of the attack. In fact, the aura of hemiplegic migraine is so intense that it is often mistaken for a stroke. Unlike strokes, however, hemiplegic migraine doesn’t cause any long-term damage to the nerves. That being said, the experience can still be very frightening. It usually involves one half of the body (stretching from the face all the way down to the arms and legs) becoming weak – this makes speaking and moving really difficult. Whilst there is not always the painful headache of the main attack stage, when hemiplegic migraine does involve a headache, it usually starts either before or after the period of paralysis.

Migraine with Brainstem Aura

This type of migraine used to be called a basilar-type migraine. It is a really rare sub-type of migraine with aura, and its symptoms tend to last for up to an hour. These symptoms include the usual visual, sensory, and language symptoms experienced during other types of migraine attacks. However, migraine with brainstem aura also has some additional symptoms. These include: vertigo (feeling like you’re moving/everything around you is moving), tinnitus (hearing a ringing sound in your ears), and speaking difficulties (to name a few). According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine with brainstem aura is most common in adolescent females (although individuals of all genders and age groups do suffer from it).

Syndromes associated with migraine: Vestibular Migraine, Abdominal Migraine, Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome

Other Types of Headaches: Cluster Headaches

Continue learning about migraine: Parent Online Course

Your child lives with migraine? You want to know about everything you can do to support them? We’re here to help. In our Parent Online Course, you’ll become an expert in coping with your child’s migraine as a family.

  • Bite-sized modules that fit your busy schedule
  • From migraine basics to actionable strategies
  • Recommended by leading neurologists & psychologists

Learn more about the course & sign up here.


Atypical Migraine

Types of Migraine Headaches

The Migraine Trust on Types of Migraine

More to explore

cup with coffee making a happy face
Migraine Management

Caffeine and Migraine: To avoid or not to avoid?

There is no single answer when it comes to explaining the link between caffeine and migraine. This is because caffeine is regarded as both a trigger of and and a treatment for attacks.

Migraine insights in your inbox!

Get all latest blogs and news for a Happyr life with migraine.