Recognizing the Different Stages of a Migraine

Recognizing the Different Stages of a Migraine

Migraines aren’t just your typical headache. Instead, a migraine is a neurological disease that affects nearly 40 million people in the United States. Migraines can be debilitating, and unfortunately, they can leave you miserable for up to 72 hours at a time. 

Sometimes, though, you can mitigate migraine symptoms by starting treatment during the first stage of your migraine. 

Below, our team of providers here at International Spine, Pain & Performance Center explains the different stages of migraines so you can learn to recognize different stages of migraines and seek treatment as soon as possible.

What are the four stages of migraines?

Migraines progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, attack, and post-drome.


Prodome, sometimes called the “preheadache” or premonitory phase 一 can last for a few days or a few hours, and it usually signals the beginning of a migraine. Symptoms of a prodome include:

Not everyone who has migraines has prodome, but if you do, you can take action against your migraines during this phase. Taking medication, avoiding your specific migraine triggers, and managing stress can help lessen your migraine symptoms.


Approximately 33% of migraine sufferers report having auras. Auras can last anywhere from 5-60 minutes, and they include audio disturbances such as seeing wiggly lights, flashes of light, and blurry vision.


The attack phase, also known as the headache phase, is the third stage of a migraine attack. This phase lasts the longest and can persist up to three days, or 72 hours. Migraine pain can manifest in many ways: throbbing, searing, burning pain. In addition to head pain, this phase also includes:

During this phase of a migraine attack, there are many things you can try to find relief. Potential treatments during this phase include medication, cold packs on the face or forehead, heating pads, staying hydrated, relaxing, adjusting the noise/lights in your room, and consuming some caffeine. 


The post-drome phase is the final phase of a migraine attack and can last up to 48 hours. Although the head pain ceases during this phase, this “hangover” phase can be just as debilitating. You might suspect you are in the post-drome if you spot the following:

Understanding which stage of your migraine attack you’re in can help you find the right treatments for you. Keeping a headache diary can help you pinpoint the symptoms (and triggers) you experience in each phase.

Exploring your migraine treatment options

Some people may find that drinking a cup of coffee or taking medication can stop a migraine in its tracks, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone. Here at International Spine, Pain & Performance Center, our team is on a mission to help you manage chronic migraines through:

If chronic migraines are impacting your quality of life, know that help is just a call or click away. Call our Arlington, Virginia, or Washington D.C office to explore your migraine treatment options. You can also book an appointment today.

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