How Long Do Migraine Attacks Last? What to Expect

how long do migraine last

Are you facing a migraine attack? Then, at the very beginning, you must remember that time is a crucial factor. So, how long do migraine last? For some people, it may be for 4 hours only, while some may face this attack for up to 72 hours (approximately close to 3 days). Also, there are multiple phases of this attack, and each of these attacks may be different, even within the same individual. 

As you already know, it is a severe attack that engages only half side of the head. Hence, this comprehensive article will give you an idea of how long they last, what its various categories are, ways to prevent them, and ways to resolve this. 

What are the causes of migraine? 

A few things initiate the occurrence of migraine in people, like hormonal changes and the intake of medicines. Some people suffer from this killer headache due to excessive consumption of alcohol or intake of extra amounts of caffeine. Sometimes heightened stress levels also trigger the migraine, and it can continue to bother the victim until he or she takes complete rest.

Other factors that may trigger migraine are changes in the sleep cycle, sudden weather changes or a drop in air pressure. Sometimes migraine becomes your destiny if it has been included in your bloodline. If you are of a mature age or going through a young age, you are likely to be attacked by migraine, which may get low with the increment in age as time passes.

How long do migraine last in people? 

Migraine is a neurological condition that starts with debilitating headaches and interferes with your daily schedule. Technically speaking, it lasts for a period of 4-72 hours. However, at times, it may last for more. 

When talking of an entire migraine attack – there are 4 stages to it: Prodrome, Aura, Headache, and Postdrome. Though the minimal period is 4 hours, if intense, then a migraine attack could, in ‘specific’ cases, last up to a week! 

A patient’s history and how the current migraine is progressing – are important determinants in defining the time period that the migraine attack will last. It may so happen that some of these phases may last for a few hours, while some may go up to over 24 hours and counting. This varies from person to person and even from time to time for a single person. The best way to deal with this is – to keep a migraine journal and keep track of the patterns. 

Let us try to understand the phases and the reason behind the variation in the time period for different individuals – 

What are the various stages of migraine? 

As the above-mentioned section has given you an idea about how long do migraine last – that it lasts through 4 stages and up to 72 hours (at times more). Therefore, let us try and understand its stages and its symptoms – 

Stage 1 – Prodrome 

This stage is alternatively called the warning stage. It prepares the ground for the aura stage to set in and begins either a couple of days or hours prior to the Aura timing. 

The noted symptoms include – anxiety that leads to sudden mood changes, increased thirst, cravings for certain foods, constipation, and neck stiffness, to name a few. 

Stage 2 – Aura 

You must remember that many individuals who have been suffering from migraine do not face this stage. Supposedly, it occurs only within 25% of the patients. Also, those who regularly face migraine attacks do not also face it every time. 

But when it does, it sets in 20-40 minutes prior to the main attack, and the one suffering faces sudden flashes of light and speech disruptions. 

The noted symptoms include – impaired visual and hearing capacity, sudden sight of flashes of light, and a sudden numbness in the body. Apart from that, there is weakness in the body and constant dizziness. 

Stage 3 – Headache 

This is that stage of your migraine attack wherein you may have already passed the Aura stage or have directly entered the Postdrome stage. In either case, over 90% of people face this attack. 

The noted symptoms are – irritability, increased sensitivity to light/odour, movement issues, blurring of vision, throbbing pain in your head (both sides), nausea, and vomiting. 

Stage 4 – Postdrome 

For those wondering how long do migraine last after all – this is the last stage you have to deal with. This stage is considered the end of the primary headache part, and technically, for most people, it lasts for 24-48 hours. 

The most prominent symptoms include – a constantly aching body, a feeling of being drained of energy, a sense of weakness, difficulty in concentrating, and a sense of depression (apparently). 

These are some of the critical stages that a migraine patient undergoes during an attack. 

What are the symptoms of migraine? 

When a person suffers from migraine, he or she might experience the following:

  • The person will continuously suffer from pain on one side of the head, which might be switched alternatively
  • You will feel pulsating in your head. It will feel like veins will pop up.
  • Exposure to light will make you feel very uncomfortable. It will make your eyes watery for no reason.
  • You also might not feel hungry. Indigestion may occur, which will lead to nausea and vomiting in most cases.
  • Some people have reported seeing bright spots when they see something or focus on something during a migraine
  • The neck muscles are reported to become stiff and hard, which will cause uneasiness in sleeping and turning your head.

How to prevent a migraine attack? 

If you have been reading this post, then you have already got a fair idea about – how long do migraine last. So, what must you do to prevent an attack? Let us give you some suggestions – 

  • Cut out on – alcohol and cigarettes from your routine. Also, you must reduce the consumption of junk food and stick to home-cooked simple food. 
  • Bring a change in your lifestyle – from scheduling your day to including exercises in your routine. Apart from that, manage your sleep cycle and keep your body hydrated. 

If you make these changes, you will be able to reduce the severity of the migraine attack. 

What if it extends the 72-hour mark? 

Normally, the headache lasts up to 72 hours maximum. However, if it breaches the 72-hour mark, you must consult a medical professional. If required, get emergency treatment. 

Officially, this condition is referred to as status migrainosus or an attack with a pain-free interval. Unlike the general migraine treatment, this requires a different format of treatment. 

How to treat migraine? 

The best way to treat migraine is to take medicines that help lower the intensity of pulsating pain. Some people say that excess water intake is necessary when suffering from migraine because it helps in reducing blood pressure and ultimately relieves the pain and induces sleep.

Final words

If you are facing a migraine attack for the first time, then you may wish to know how long do migraine last. As mentioned above, the pain ranges within 4-72 hours and sometimes may go up to a week. Since this neurological condition does not have any permanent cure as of now, you must change your lifestyle and include some healthy practices in your routine. Also, keep certain OTC and prescription medicines handy. Keep in touch with your medical professional and try to follow a schedule. If you liked this article and want to know more such facts, keep checking this website. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: How long do migraines typically last?

Ans: The duration of migraines can vary widely. Migraines usually last between 4 and 72 hours if untreated. However, individual experiences may differ.

Q2: What factors influence the duration of a migraine episode?

Ans: Various factors can affect the duration of migraines, including the individual’s response to treatment, the severity of the migraine, and the specific triggers involved.

Q3: Can a migraine last for just a few minutes, or does it always take hours?

Ans: While most migraines last for several hours, some individuals may experience shorter episodes, often referred to as “mini-migraines” or “migraine attacks.” These can last for a few minutes to an hour.

Q4: Are there different phases of a migraine, each with its own duration?

Ans: Yes, migraines often consist of different phases, including the prodrome, aura (not everyone experiences this), headache, and postdrome. The total duration includes all these phases, but the headache phase is typically the most noticeable.

Q5: Can the duration of migraines be shortened with medication?

Ans: In many cases, migraine-specific medications, such as triptans, can help shorten the duration of a migraine if taken early in the attack. However, effectiveness varies among individuals.



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