It is often difficult to predict when a migraine attack is going to happen. However, you can often predict the pattern of each attack as there are well defined stages. It is these stages and their symptoms which distinguish a migraine from a headache.
In adults, we can divide a migraine attack into four or five stages that lead on from each other:
• Premonitory or warning phase
• Aura (not always present)
• The headache or main attack stage
• Recovery or postdrome stage
Learning to recognise the different phases of a migraine attack can be useful. You might get one, all, or a combination of these stages, and the combination of stages may vary from attack to attack. Each phase can vary in length and severity.
Recognising different symptoms at different times during your headache attack can give a doctor information which may help diagnosis. Also, taking medication before the symptoms have fully developed may reduce the effect of an attack. A child’s migraine attack is often much shorter than an adult’s attack, and it may therefore not be possible to fully make out the different headache phases.