Signs of a Migraine That Aren't Headache

If you're like a lot of folks, you probably think a migraine means you've got a splitting headache. But there's a lot more to it than that. Along with the pain, your body will send you other telltale signs, from shifts in your spirits to feeling sick to your stomach. The sooner you recognize what's happening, the quicker you can get the right kind of relief.


A change in mood is part of the migraine package for about 60% of people. When it happens before a migraine hits, doctors call it a "prodrome." A mood swing after a migraine eases is called a "postdrome."

Researchers haven't fully connected the dots between migraine headaches and moodiness. But whatever the reasons, your mood may shift in a variety of ways. You may:

  • Feel hyperactive
  • Find it hard to think
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Get depressed or anxious
  • Feel cheerful



About 25% of people who get a migraine have visual changes that are known as auras. You may see spots, wavy or jagged lines, or flashing lights. The symptoms usually ease in under an hour.

Auras can also happen before a migraine headache hits, serving as a warning sign. In some cases, you may get an aura without a headache.

Besides vision issues, some other aura symptoms that you may notice are:

  • Numbness or feeling of pins and needles in your arm or leg
  • Verbal quirks that make it hard to speak
  • Limb weakness or uncontrollable jerking

You may find these feelings begin gradually, then build up over several minutes. They can last for up to an hour.


Lots of folks with migraines get nauseated or throw up. The possible culprit: sudden changes in brain chemistry that affect your brain vomiting center.

Sensitivity to Light and Sound

When you have a migraine, you might feel like heading to a dark, quiet spot for relief. Sensitivity to light and noise is behind it. Your doctor may call your urge to avoid light "photophobia" and your sensitivity to sound "phonophobia."

Pain in Your Face

Migraine headaches are sometimes misdiagnosed as a sinus headache or a tension-type headache. That's because migraines can give you pain in your sinus, jaw, or neck area.

When you have a full-blown attack, you may be sensitive to anything or anyone touching your head. The reason? Many researchers point to abnormal changes in levels of substances that are naturally produced in your brain. When the levels increase, they can cause inflammation and irritate nearby nerves, causing pain.


A Grab Bag of Other Symptoms

There are still more ways you might feel when you get a migraine. Some things to watch out for:


  • Increased appetite
  • Sweating or cold hands
  • Pale facial color
  • Drowsiness or depression
  • Restlessness
  • Sense of well-being
  • Surge of energy
  • Excessive yawning

No matter how you feel, it's a good idea to keep a diary of your symptoms. Take it with you when you see your doctor so you can give him an accurate update on what's been going on. It will help him make the right diagnosis and put you on the road to relief.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 19, 2019



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Migraine Research Foundation: "Migraine Facts."

The Mayo Clinic: "Migraine Symptoms and Causes."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Migraine Fact Sheet."

Neuhauser, H. Neurology, Feb. 27, 2001.

National Headache Foundation: "Migraine."

Quintela, E. Cephalalgia, September 2006.

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