Definitions of Migraine Terms

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with migraine, you may be overwhelmed by all the terminology. What’s MOH? What’s a silent migraine? What are all these medications people take?

We’ve put together a short and simple glossary to explain a few of the most common migraine terms you may read or hear. 

Commonly Used Medical Migraine Terms

Aura: Sensory disturbances that precede a migraine attack. The most common aura symptoms are visual — flashes of light, zigzag lines, bright spots or partial loss of vision. Aura may also include tingling sensations, numbness, limb weakness, or problems with speech and language.  

Chronic migraine: Describes having a headache on 15 or more days per month, for more than months’ time, with at least eight of the headaches being migraines.

Hemiplegic migraine: A type of migraine associated with weakness and/or loss of sensation on one side of the body. 

Medication overuse headache (MOH): Painful, recurring headaches caused by the frequent use of pain medication. Migraine patients have a higher risk of developing MOH, which is also called rebound headache or medication adaptation headache.

Migraine: A neurological pain condition characterized by debilitating headaches as well as other symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness and sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraineur: A term for a person who has migraine. Many members of the migraine community prefer “person living with migraine.” 

Neurologist: A doctor who specializes in disorders of the brain and nervous system, including migraine.

Ocular migraine: Migraine characterized by temporary loss of vision in one eye. 

Pain management specialist: A doctor who specializes in treating all kinds of pain, including migraine pain.

Silent migraine: Migraine that does not cause headache pain but does include the other associated symptoms, such as aura, nausea, sensory changes, sensitivity to light and sound. 

Trigeminal nerve: A large nerve in the head region which predominantly is responsible for sensation in the face and the sac that covers the brain. The trigeminal nerve has been shown in studies to be the primary site where migraines are activated and felt. CEFALY treats and prevents migraine headaches by targeting the trigeminal nerve.

Vestibular migraine: (additional names: migraine-associated vertigo; migraine-related vestibulopathy; migrainous vertigo) An episodic syndrome that may be associated with migraine, vestibular migraine is  characterized by moderate to severe vertigo (dizziness), balance problems and/or motion sickness lasting between five minutes and 72 hours. Vestibular migraine can occur with or without the headache pain.

Stages of Migraine

Recent clinical research has identified headache pain as only one phase of a migraine. Scientists and clinicians have identified four phases of a migraine, each with its own characteristics. 

Prodrome: (Also referred to as premonitory phase) The first phase of a migraine, which signals an oncoming attack and can last from hours to days. Prodrome symptoms may include constipation, diarrhea, irritability, fatigue, depression, food cravings and/or frequent yawning. 

Aura: Sensory disturbances that occur for some, but not all persons experiencing migraine.

Pain phase: The throbbing, intense pain and other symptoms for which migraine is known. 

Postdrome: The last phase of a migraine, which occurs after the pain has subsided and may last up to 48 hours. Postdrome symptoms may include fatigue, a continuing mild, dull headache, or (in some rare cases) euphoric feelings. 

Treatments Used in Migraine

Anticonvulsants: Medications indicated and used to prevent or reduce symptoms of epilepsy. The medications topiramate (TPM) and valproic acid (VPA) have demonstrated positive treatment and are indicated for use for preventing migraine.

Antidepressants: Medications which are primarily used to treat symptoms of depression. Some research suggests two categories of antidepressants may help with migraine prevention and associated mood dysregulation symptoms. These antidepressants are the tricyclics and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). With both, 4-6 weeks are required before the effects of the medication are seen.  

CGRP antagonists: A new type of preventive migraine medication that blocks reception of or binds to calcitonin gene-related peptide, a protein involved in the transmission of pain in the head.

Beta-blockers: A category of medication that is used to treat a variety of disorders. Originally, beta-blockers were used to treat some heart disease and high blood pressure, but they have also been shown to be effective in treating other disorders such as migraine. These medications target your heart and blood vessels to help prevent the onset of migraine. The current theory of how these medications work with migraine is that they reduce the dilation associated with a migraine attack. Examples of beta-blockers are atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol, nadolol and timolol. Be sure to inform your healthcare provider if you have asthma, Raynaud’s syndrome or COPD before taking a beta-blocker.

OnabotulinumtoxinA: A toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, onabotulinum A is used therapeutically as an injectable, preventive treatment for chronic migraine headaches. Originally introduced as a cosmetic treatment to reduce wrinkles, onabotulinum A is thought to work in migraine by blocking the nerve signals that cause blood vessel dilation. 

Calcium channel blockers: Another medication used in cardiovascular treatment, calcium channel blockers reduce blood vessel constriction and are used by some physicians when other preventive migraine medications have not worked. The two most used are flunarizine and verapamil.  

Ergotamine: (also dihydroergotamine or the “ergots”) Ergots were the cornerstone of acute migraine treatment before the introduction of triptans. Ergotamines work by constricting blood vessels around the brain. 

NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can help to reduce migraine pain. Common over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) and naproxen (e.g. Aleve). 

eTNS: External trigeminal nerve stimulation, a non-invasive method of neuromodulation. The CEFALY device uses eTNS to send tiny impulses through an electrode positioned on the forehead to modify pain transmission and processing in the trigeminal nerve.

Occipital nerve block: A procedure where your healthcare providers injects a combination of a local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory drug at the base of the skull, resulting in temporary pain relief. While pain relief onset occurs in a matter of minutes, nerve blocks typically wear off in one to two weeks but can also last for months in a few patients.

Triptans: The first-line therapy prescribed by healthcare providers for acute migraine treatment outside of an urgent setting. Triptans are highly specific for stimulating a subtype of receptor for serotonin. These specific serotonin sites are primarily located in the vessels around the brain, and so triptans are thought to reduce inflammation and constrict these vessels, alleviating migraine pain.

Any terms you’d like to learn more about? Email us here and ask!

April showers bring May flowers… but for many people, the shift in weather also brings headaches, allergies, and much confusion.

If you suffer from allergies, how do you know if your headache is a migraine headache or a sinus headache? And, because it’s your head and it hurts, does it really matter what type of headache it is? After all, what you really want is for whatever it is to go away.

Why does it matter?

It matters because if you’re treating the wrong thing, you won’t solve the right problem, and your head will continue to hurt. 

Symptoms for both can overlap, so an allergy-induced headache can look a lot like an allergy-induced migraine. To complicate things, allergies can be linked to both sinus headaches and migraine headaches. 

What is the difference?

Both sinusitis and migraine can cause pain and pressure in the brows and forehead, nasal congestion, and fatigue. Both conditions also get worse when you lean forward. Perhaps the main difference is that sinusitis isn’t usually associated with nausea or vomiting. Nausea, noise, and light sensitivity are commonly associated with migraines. It’s estimated that 90 percent of people who see a doctor for a sinus headache have a migraine headache instead.

It’s no surprise that people who suffer from migraine have a sensitive nervous system. This means the body tends to quickly overreact to changes in the environment that it views as threats (such as barometric pressure). In addition, if you also have allergies, those allergens can trigger your immune system to release chemicals that can cause inflammation throughout the body and lead to a migraine.

Learn more about how CEFALY treats migraine pain and ask your doctor if CEFALY migraine treatment and prevention is right for you.

Migraines may indicate that you have a serious medical condition. Have any persistent pain checked by a qualified healthcare professional.

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Women experience migraine much more often than men. But did you know that women also may experience migraine symptoms more intensely? 

“Women are more likely to experience longer and more intense migraine attacks, report more migraine-associated symptoms – including nausea, visual aura, blurred vision, photophobia, and phonophobia – and have higher levels of migraine-related disability (e.g., requiring bed rest with attacks, reduced productivity at school or work),” explains an article in Practical Pain Management. 

Migraine is most common among women between the ages of 18 and 44: prime years for women to pursue education, careers and families. The days lost to migraine pain are days you can never get back.

Why do women get migraines more often, and more severely, than men? The answer’s not yet known. Hormones are a likely influence, but “migraine is not a hormonal disorder,” emphasizes Michael Oshinsky, program director of pain and migraine at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH. “That’s a mistake. Think of it as a very diverse disorder. Each patient has to be diagnosed with her own criteria.”

How to Take Control of Your Migraines — and Your Health

The week after Mother’s Day is National Women’s Health Week, an event that encourages women of all ages to take steps toward better physical and mental health. If migraine pain is constricting your life, now’s the time to take action so you can live pain free. 

The first step is to see your doctor or a specialist, like a neurologist, if you haven’t already. It can be helpful to bring a headache diary in which you’ve recorded your attacks, symptoms and triggers. Your neurologist can discuss treatment options you haven’t considered, including CEFALY DUAL.

CEFALY DUAL is unique because it’s an FDA-cleared, non-invasive medical device that works to treat and prevent migraine. 

  • ACUTE, a 60-minute program for acute migraine relief, influences the trigeminal nerve to block pain signals from getting through. 
  • PREVENT, a less intense program that’s used for 20 minutes each day, desensitizes the nerve over time to reduce the number of migraine days. 

Because the experience of migraine can be so different from person to person, many women try different combinations of treatments until they find the one that works best for them. CEFALY DUAL is drug-free and has minimal, mild side effects, so it can be used in conjunction with other migraine remedies. 

Don’t lose any more days to migraine.

Reclaim your life, and try CEFALY DUAL risk free for 60 days. If you’re not satisfied with the results, simply return the device and accessories for a refund. Read our return policy.

Ready to experience migraine relief with CEFALY DUAL?

Get a prescription from your doctor (Rx required in U.S. only) and order online. Shop now. 

We designed CEFALY DUAL to be easy to use — there’s just one button to press — and safe, with minimal side effects. Still, it can take a little time to get the hang of using your CEFALY DUAL correctly so you get maximum migraine relief. 

Here are a few comments and questions we frequently hear from new users.

“I feel like CEFALY DUAL isn’t working / I’m not getting any relief for my migraine.”

One of the most common issues is the placement of your CEFALY DUAL. If it’s too high on your forehead, it won’t be able to stimulate the trigeminal nerve. 

Here’s a trick we suggest for new CEFALY DUAL users: Pretend the small, flat, bottom edge of the electrode is your unibrow. Place the electrode on your clean forehead so that the bottom edge is aligned with your eyebrow line, as in the diagram. Then, you’ll optimize the placement of the electrode for nerve stimulation.

If you’re confident your CEFALY DUAL is in the right place and you still feel like it’s not working, you may need to check the electrode. Standard electrodes are designed to be used up to 20 times and hypoallergenic electrodes up to 10 times, if used and stored carefully. If an electrode gets dirty, or loses adhesion, you’ll need to replace it. Shop for electrodes.

“The sensation is too much for me!” 

It can take time to get used to the sensation of using CEFALY DUAL, but it should never be painful. We recommend starting off slow and gradually ramping up the intensity. Whether you’re using the ACUTE or the PREVENT treatment program, you can press your device button once at any point during the first 14 minutes of the program, and the intensity will be held at that level for the rest of the session. 

Watch our video on stabilizing the intensity of CEFALY DUAL.

Over the first few weeks of using CEFALY DUAL, you can increase the intensity to the level that feels comfortable for you. Many longtime users say that for them, the sensation feels relaxing, like getting a gentle head massage. 

Just remember that the maximum intensity for each program is the clinical threshold: That means if you’re always using it below the maximum intensity, you’re not getting the full benefit of CEFALY DUAL.

“I don’t feel anything when I’m using CEFALY DUAL.”

That’s not necessarily a problem! You may just be getting accustomed to the feeling. If you just began a session with your CEFALY DUAL, allow 2-3 minutes for the intensity to increase. Once you’re at least 4 minutes into your session, you can press and hold the device button to increase the intensity. When you release the button, the intensity will stabilize and remain constant. If the intensity becomes intolerable or painful, stop the program and begin again. 

“The ACUTE program helps my pain, but my migraine frequency hasn’t decreased.” 

The CEFALY DUAL’s two programs work in different ways. ACUTE, a 60-minute program for acute migraine relief, influences the trigeminal nerve to block pain signals from getting through. PREVENT, a less intense, 20-minute program, desensitizes the nerve over time. For PREVENT to reduce pain signals in the trigeminal nerve, you have to use it every day. It typically takes 90 days to see results. Occasional or irregular use won’t result in effective migraine prevention.

Having trouble fitting CEFALY DUAL into your hectic daily life? Try these tips for establishing a migraine prevention routine.

If you have other questions about how to use your CEFALY DUAL, please email us at

fight stress induced migraines

It’s been a stressful season for people with migraine. The Migraine Buddy app examined user-recorded attacks in four countries (U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia) since January 1, and saw “a general increase in migraine attacks triggered by stress and anxiety.” Social isolation, information overload and financial worries were cited as major factors.

Serenity feels far away for all of us right now. But for Stress Awareness Month, you can take a few small steps toward identifying and successfully managing your stress.

  • Pay attention to signs of stress in your body. You may think of stress as being “all in your head,” but the body’s stress response is a physical one. Common physical symptoms of stress include muscle tension, fatigue, chest pain, rapid heart rate, stomach upset, low energy, decreased sex drive and insomnia. 
  • Address stress before it builds up. It’s not just stress that causes migraine, but also the “let-down effect” that occurs after stress is released. In one study, researchers found that relaxation after heightened stress was a significant trigger for migraine attacks. The first six hours of decline in stress were associated with a nearly five-fold increased risk of a migraine attack. If you sense rising tension in your mind and body, act early to reduce your stress.
  • Use proven relaxation techniques to head off stress-induced migraines. There are scientifically proven ways to reduce stress, including breathing exercises (rhythmic breathing, deep breathing), guided meditations, and yoga. Popular apps like Calm and Headspace make it easy.
  • Consider seeing a mental health professional through telehealth consultations. You don’t have to go to a doctor’s office to get professional help with stress and anxiety. Increasingly, therapists and counselors are available through telemedicine, making it easier — and more affordable— for people to meet with them.

Lastly, if your migraine treatment routine is causing you stress, it may be time to try CEFALY. CEFALY is an FDA-cleared, clinically proven and drug-free treatment for migraine prevention and migraine pain relief. Not only is CEFALY free of the serious side effects associated with many migraine medications, but many CEFALY users report that using the device makes them feel calm and relaxed. 

Learn more about CEFALY.