What Not to Do with a Migraine

What Not to Do with a Migraine

  • Headache and Migraine Pain

Migraines can strike at the worst times and can be debilitating. Once they start, extreme sufferers can expect to be out of commission for hours, even days. For those prone to migraine headaches, it is important to know what not to do in the throes of a migraine and between migraines. These are the dos and don’ts for chronic migraines.

How Do You Know If You Have a Migraine?

Most migraine sufferers report an intense, throbbing pain that worsens with movements, lights, sounds, smells, and other triggers. For some people, there are symptoms that arise before the actual headache. There are four stages of a migraine.

Phase 1: The Prodome

The prodome isn’t experienced by everyone. It’s kind of a “premonitory” or “pre-headache” stage. During the prodome, one can find it hard to concentrate, speak, read, or sleep. They can feel irritable, anxious, or even depressed without explanation. Nausea and muscle stiffness can also occur. People may feel sensitive to lights, sounds, and smells.

Phase 2: The Aura

Not everyone is aware of or feels an aura, period. It happens quickly — between five minutes and an hour. The aura stage may overlap with the actual headache for some migraine sufferers. During the aura phase of a migraine, people may experience visual disturbances or even temporarily lose sight. There is numbness, tingling, or weakness in one side of the head or body. Speech may even be affected.

Phase 3: The Headache

A migraine headache typically brings a strong, throbbing pain in the head (that may move from one side of the head to the other), neck pain, stiffness, nausea, vomiting, and/or nasal congestion. Symptoms of anxiety and depression are also common. Migraine sufferers can expect this phase to last from four hours to three days.

Phase 4: The Postdrome

This last stage is akin to a hangover that may linger for one to two days. It can be difficult to concentrate or comprehend things, and many people feel fatigued and somewhat depressed — although some even experience a sort of euphoria when the pain is over.

Migraine coming on


What Can Worsen a Migraine?

Not everyone experiences a migraine the same way, and what triggers or exacerbates one person’s pain may have no effect on someone else. However, there are a few things that tend to worsen migraines.



Unhealthy Habits

It’s essential to eat and sleep properly in any event, but for people who get migraines, these habits may have tangible effects on migraine frequency, duration, and level of pain. Consuming lots of alcohol, caffeine, and even foods like sweets, artificial sweeteners, and heavily salted foods (such as cured meats) can also have a negative effect on someone’s migraines. Oversleeping or not sleeping enough, dehydration, and low glucose levels can also exacerbate migraine symptoms — as can stress.

Over-Medication for Pain

Just because a medicine is available over the counter doesn’t mean it should be taken regularly. In fact, taking things like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin for more than a couple of days in a row may result in medication overuse headaches (MOH) — sometimes referred to as “rebound headaches.” People who take opioid medications for long periods of time can also experience a heightened pain response called opioid-induced hyperalgesia.

Certain Medications

More clinical studies are needed to confirm the correlation between migraines and these medications, but for some people, migraines are triggered or made worsened by:

  • SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) Antidepressants
  • Nasal Decongestants and Steroids — for chronic allergies
  • Oral Contraceptives or Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) — for acid reflux, such as Nexium

Someone who is on one or more of these medications and finds that their migraines have gotten more intense should speak to their doctor.

What Should You Not Do with Migraines?

It’s important for migraine sufferers to identify their particular triggers, and this list may be a good start.

  • Do not mess with your sleep schedule. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Do not skip meals, and do not eat lots of junk food. A sudden drop in blood sugar can trigger a migraine. Regular indulgence in high sodium, MSG, artificial ingredients, heavily processed foods, and high quantities of sugar may make you more prone to migraines.
  • Do not let yourself get dehydrated. Dehydration is a common trigger for headaches and can exacerbate a migraine.
  • Do not take pain medication for more than 3 or 4 days in a row. Developing the body’s resistance and expectation of medication can bring on a headache and affect the efficacy and effectiveness of the medicine.
  • Do not try to “motor through” a migraine. Ignoring the pain will not make it go away — in fact, it may make the pain worse and the duration of the migraine longer. 

What not to do with a migraine

What Should I Do While Having a Migraine?

At the first sign of the onset of a migraine, you should:

  • Take a time-out. Stress only makes things worse, and migraines usually come with sensitivity to stimuli. Find somewhere quiet, dark, and peaceful to rest. 
  • Drink some water. Staying hydrated — and getting hydrated if you have become dehydrated — goes a long way to fending off migraines. If you think you need to replenish your electrolytes, get a sports drink, preferably a low-sugar option.
  • Apply something cold or hot to your head. Some people feel some relief with an ice pack, while others find that heat works better for them. Use whatever works in your experience, whether it’s a bag of frozen peas, a steamy shower, or a heating pad for your head, neck, and shoulders.
  • Take your pain medicine as recommended or prescribed by your doctor. This should be done at the first instance, not when your migraine has progressed — and it will — to the point of no return. The earlier you work to stave off the migraine, the higher likelihood of success and the more effective the treatment will be. 


A comprehensive migraine treatment regimen may be highly personalized. The more you are aware of your triggers and what remedies work for you, the better off you are. Find out more about headache pain or make an appointment with us at Carolinas Pain Center. Get your migraine pain under control.

When to Worry About a Headache: Dangerous Headaches

  • when to worry about a headache

Do you know when to worry about a headache?

Headaches are not usually a cause for concern. The average headache comes with a manageable level of pain and is typically triggered by something like work stress, poor posture, flashing lights, strong smells, and loud sounds. Unfortunately, headaches can also be a symptom of a more serious medical condition like a tumor, stroke, aneurysm, or meningitis.

So, how can you distinguish dangerous headaches from harmless ones? If you don’t know when to worry about a headache, we encourage you to read through our detailed guide below. This information should help you decide whether or not to seek medical assistance for your head pain. 

When Is a Headache Dangerous?

To determine whether or not a headache is dangerous, it’s essential to understand the different types of headaches. Headache pain can be dull, sharp, throbbing, brief, or long-lasting. The pain can occur anywhere in the face or head, depending on the type of headache you’re experiencing. If you’re not familiar, the most common types of headaches include:

  • Cluster
  • Tension
  • Sinus
  • Neck
  • Migraine
  • TMJ

You can distinguish these headaches by where they tend to cause pain. Cluster headaches, for example, cause pain around the eyes, whereas tension headaches usually occur in the forehead area. Cluster headaches and tension headaches are good examples of head pain that doesn’t usually require urgent care. 

Any headache can technically be dangerous, provided it’s a symptom of a serious medical condition like a tumor, stroke, or aneurysm. The best example of this would be what’s called a thunderclap headache. This headache strikes seemingly out of nowhere and causes severe pain. They’re typically a sign of bleeding in and around the brain, so sufferers should seek medical attention immediately.

when to worry about a headache



Warning Signs of Dangerous Headaches: When to Worry About a Headache

Head pain can be dangerous without striking suddenly and severely like a thunderclap headache. Sometimes a dangerous headache will create a dull and tolerable ache rather than an electric-shock type of pain. That’s why pain severity should be just one of many metrics used to determine whether or not your headache requires medical attention. 



If you identify with any of the points listed below, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. These are a few of the key warning signs of dangerous headaches. 

  • Your headache has persisted for longer than 72 hours without a period of at least 4 hours pain-free.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications and at-home remedies are continuously ineffective.
  • The pain is the worst you’ve ever experienced from a headache. 
  • Your headache returns to the same spot over and over again.
  • You also have symptoms like vision loss, uncontrollable vomiting, fever, and slurred speech.

Headaches can be harmless, but you should take them very seriously if you begin to experience any of the issues described above. Getting yourself help from a medical professional in a timely manner could save your life. 

If you have any other questions about how headaches can be dangerous, how to manage head pain, or anything else, we encourage you to read through our informative FAQ below. 

FAQs Regarding When to Worry About a Headache

How long is too long for a headache?

Headaches usually go away within 4 hours, but it’s not uncommon for the head pain to persist for longer. If your headache persists for longer than 72 hours, however, you should seek immediate medical attention. This is one of a few signs that your head pain may be the result of a serious medical issue. 

Which type of headache is considered a medical emergency?

Your headache may be a medical emergency if it lasts longer than 72 hours, is the worst headache you’ve ever experienced, or comes with symptoms like uncontrollable vomiting or vision loss. Thunderclap headaches should also be treated as medical emergencies, along with headaches that are accompanied by a fever, slurred speech, or numbness. 

Is it OK to go to sleep with a headache?

Sleeping with a headache is not dangerous in itself. That said, you should take steps to ease your head pain before going to bed, as an untreated headache may worsen overnight. You also shouldn’t use sleep as a replacement for seeking medical attention if your symptoms are severe and resistant to at-home treatment.

It’s also worth noting that not getting enough sleep and getting too much sleep can trigger migraines. If you’re someone that suffers from regular headaches or migraines, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule of 7 or 8 hours a night might help you keep them at bay. 

What do I do if my headache won’t go away?

If your headache persists for longer than 72 hours, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. The same is true for headaches that come and go but continuously occur in the same spot. 

What does it mean if your headache won’t go away?

Headaches that don’t go away may indicate a more serious medical condition, such as a tumor, aneurysm, meningitis, and more. You may also suffer from chronic migraines, which have a variety of causes. If there isn’t an underlying condition to treat, you may need to see a pain specialist that can assist with headache pain management. 

When should I go to the hospital for a headache?

You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience extreme pain, pain of any severity that persists for longer than 72 hours, or side effects like fever, dizziness, vomiting, and slurred speech. 

What happens to the brain when you have a headache?

When you have a headache, the muscles or blood vessels around your head and neck may tighten or swell. These changes can put pressure on or stimulate the surrounding nerves, which then send pain signals to the brain. 

There’s also a theory concerning migraines that involves brain cells triggering chemicals like serotonin, which can narrow your blood cells. Your blood vessels may also contract and cause throbbing pain when your estrogen levels rise and fall. As you can see, there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding headaches and how they occur. 

see a doctor to know when to worry about a headache

How to Get Rid of Headaches Fast

Thankfully, not all headaches require a trip to the emergency room. You can treat most minor headaches from the comfort of your own home. Some of the most common remedies for easing head pain symptoms include:

  • Applying a cold pack or heating pad
  • Drinking plenty of water 
  • Easing any pressure on your scalp or head
  • Relaxing and destressing
  • Dimming the lights in your home
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication


If these remedies aren’t effective or you’d like a more permanent solution for chronic headaches, the pain specialists at Carolinas Pain Center can help you. We can provide insight on when to worry about a headache and offer a wide range of treatments to eliminate your head pain or to help you manage it better. This includes trigger point injections, massage therapy, acupuncture, botox, biofeedback, prolotherapy, and more. 

We may also prescribe preventative or abortive medications, such as anti-depressants, anti-seizures, triptans, and anti-inflammatories. The treatment and medication you receive will vary based on the cause and severity of your headaches, which we take into account when preparing a personal treatment plan for you.

Don’t Tolerate Painful Headaches

Why suffer through chronic headaches when you could find relief at the Carolinas Pain Center? Our dedicated team of pain specialists has the skill and equipment necessary to assess your condition and offer a diverse selection of treatments. We take an individualized and multidisciplinary approach to our care by developing a personalized treatment plan just for you. Our methods have relieved the pain and improved the quality of life of countless patients throughout North Carolina. 

If you experience regular headaches and would like us to create a treatment plan for you, we encourage you to get in touch with our team. To contact us, please call 704-500-2332 or make an appointment using our online form. 

Bursitis vs. Arthritis: What Is the Difference Between Arthritis and Bursitis?

  • arthritis vs bursitis knee pain

Arthritis vs bursitis: both common health issues that cause joint pain. The pain can be debilitating, and resulting issues like stiffness can limit motion and make it impossible to engage in certain activities.

The symptoms of arthritis vs. bursitis can overlap, but there is one thing that both conditions have in common: they affect millions of people. Fifty-eight million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, and 8.7 million have bursitis.

What are the differences between arthritis and bursitis? Here is a closer look at these two common conditions.

The Causes and Common Types of Bursitis

The body has more than 100 bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that provide a cushion between bones, tendons, and joints. Bursae are located throughout your body, and bursitis is when these fluid compartments become inflamed.

There are different types of bursitis, and most occur around the joints, such as the knee, elbow, hips, ankles, and shoulders. Bursa near the Achilles tendon can also become inflamed.

Older people who suffer from increased inflammation can get bursitis, as can people of any age who have certain conditions, such as diabetes, gout, or thyroid issues. Some workers or athletes who perform repetitive motions day after day may also develop bursitis.

Can you have bursitis and arthritis at the same time? It is possible; arthritis can cause bursitis in some individuals.

How do I Know if I Have Bursitis or Arthritis in my Knee?

Understanding bursitis vs. arthritis comparisons is important because bursitis is usually a temporary condition, while arthritis is chronic and leads to joint damage. There are a few ways to distinguish between the two conditions.

  • Time of day of worst pain — Bursitis pain is typically worst at night, while arthritis is most intense in the mornings.
  • Treatment — Bursitis will respond to treatments like pain relievers, ice packs, and anti-inflammatory medications, while arthritis will not respond to these measures.
  • Symptoms — With proper treatment, bursitis should disappear within a few weeks, while arthritis will continue to bother you for the long term. It is possible to have chronic bursitis, but the symptoms will still abate with treatment and won’t return until an activity or illness triggers the inflammation again.

Can bursitis be mistaken for arthritis? Some of the symptoms overlap. Both can cause stiffness and pain that worsens with activity. Overuse and traumatic injury can cause or exacerbate both conditions, which can make it difficult to tell the difference. However, a medical professional like those at Carolinas Pain Center can help you decide if you have bursitis or arthritis.

bursitis knee pain

Tendonitis is another common condition that can be mistaken for arthritis. It is an inflammation of joint tendons, which are next to the bursae. Stiffness and pain are symptoms of both conditions, and both are temporary. A physician can help you figure out whether you have bursitis or tendonitis. In both cases, rest and at-home treatments can yield results.

Bursitis vs Arthritis: Which is More Painful?

Acute bursitis and chronic arthritis pain can both be intense. Both can be uncomfortable enough to cause you to avoid certain activities.

The main difference is the duration of the pain. Bursitis pain lessens with treatment, while arthritis pain is chronic, so it will continue. People with arthritis manage their pain rather than try to cure it.

Is it OK to Walk with Knee Bursitis?

High-impact activities will not cause damage to your bones or joint if you have bursitis. However, these activities can cause pain. In fact, if you have knee bursitis, you may notice pain and stiffness from simply walking. In addition to causing discomfort, walking or exercising can lengthen the amount of time it takes to recover from bursitis. 

Most physicians will tell you to rest as much as possible and limit movement as you recover from bursitis. However, you typically do need to totally immobilize your joints, so you can walk at work or around your home.

Is Bursitis Pain Constant?

Bursitis pain flares up with movement, though you may feel some symptoms, such as swelling or warmth in the bursa, constantly without treatment. These symptoms may be most evident if your bursitis is caused by an infection.

Bursitis pain will often lessen when you remain immobile. However, some types of bursitis, such as in the hip or shoulder, can hurt if you put pressure on the affected area when sitting or lying down.

You should keep in mind that one of the most common differences between bursitis and arthritis in knee, shoulder, and hip joints is that the pain from bursitis is more temporary and will negate with treatment.

What Causes Bursitis to Flare Up?

It is possible to have acute or chronic bursitis. Flare-ups can occur when you perform high-impact activities or make repetitive motions. People with chronic bursitis often have other conditions that cause inflammation in the body. For example, gout, diabetes, and arthritis can lead to chronic bursitis. Even in these cases, the symptoms should disappear with rest and proper treatment.

arthritis vs bursitis knee pain

Make an Appointment with Carolinas Pain Center to get Joint Pain Relief

A medical professional can further explain the difference between bursitis and arthritis in the knee and other joints. It is important to find a healthcare team experienced in treating both these conditions.

At Carolinas Pain Center, we understand the debilitating nature of arthritis pain and chronic conditions like bursitis. We can diagnose the issue and provide joint and knee pain treatment options to help you regain the level of comfort and range of joint motion necessary to do the activities that you love and handle daily tasks without pain.

Whether you are suffering from bursitis or arthritis, or another type of joint condition, you do not have to live with life-limiting pain. The first step in overcoming these joint conditions is to make an appointment with Carolinas Pain Center. We can offer you the treatment options to give you the best possible outcome and help you manage your pain and focus on living an active life.