How long do migraines last

How long do migraines last?

A migraine is more than just a throbbing headache. This neurological condition can produce excruciating throbbing pain that might keep you in bed for days at a time. The length of a migraine attack is typically determined by the type of migraine and how you manage your symptoms.

This article will explain how long a migraine lasts.


A migraine is a headache that usually affects one side of the head and causes extreme throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation. It’s commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and excessive light and sound sensitivity.

Migraine attacks can last anywhere from hours to days, and the pain might be severe enough to prevent you from going about your usual activities.

How long do migraines last?

Migraine is a multi-staged illness with several contributing variables. If left untreated, they might persist anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. Migraine duration and frequency differ from individual to person.

Status migrainosus (SM) is a type of migraine that is particularly severe. Even with treatment, these long-lasting migraine headaches can produce discomfort for up to 72 hours.

Migraines typically have four stages. These include

  • Prodrome
  • Aura
  • Headache, or main attack
  • Recovery (postdrome) stage

Some of these phases will last only a few minutes, while others will last considerably longer. You might not go through each step with every migraine.


This stage is also known as the foreshadowing or warning stage. It can start several days or just a few hours before the aura stage begins.

An individual may experience modest changes during this stage that aren’t necessarily headache-related. The symptoms serve as a forewarning that a migraine attack is on the way.

Symptoms of the prodrome include:

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Food cravings
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Mood changes
  • Stiffness of the neck


The aura stage is not experienced by everyone who suffers from migraines. Only about a quarter of migraine sufferers experience it [source].

The aura stage lasts about 20–60 minutes and begins immediately before the main migraine episode. Auras are a variety of sensory abnormalities ranging from intense light flashes to the inability to speak normally.

Symptoms of an aura include:

  • Headache
  • Impaired vision
  • Impaired hearing
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness in the face
  • Weakness in the body
  • Hearing noises
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or pins and needles in the limbs
  • Seeing bright or flashing lights, sparkles, colored spots, or zigzag lines

Typically, the aura stage occurs before the core headache. However, in some adults and children, the aura symptoms may occur together with the migraine.


Whether or not someone has experienced the aura stage, the symptoms during the headache stage are typically the same. Symptoms of a headache are:

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and noises
  • Irritability
  • Vision
  • Possible sensitivity to odors, touch, and movement
  • Stiffness in the shoulders and neck
  • Throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head that worsens with movement or activity
  • Upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting

This is the most severe stage, with more than 90% of persons suffering symptoms that make it impossible for them to operate properly.


Around 80% of persons get postdrome at the end of the primary headache episode. It can last anywhere from 24 to 48 hours and cause the following symptoms:

  • aching body
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • difficulty concentrating
  • dizziness
  • elation or depression
  • feeling drained

A return to hard exercise or an abrupt head movement may cause the headache to resurface, but only for a short time.

Causes of migraines

  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Stress
  • Bright lights
  • Changes in the weather
  • Dehydration
  • Diet
  • Hormonal changes
  • Odors
  • Overuse of medication

What signs do you look for to see if you’re having a migraine attack?

Because migraine symptoms vary from person to person, people with migraine often have a variety of symptoms. You may have a migraine if your head discomfort is moderate to severe, lasts many hours, generates a throbbing or pounding sensation, gets worse with physical movement, and interferes with your life, work, or school activities. Head pain can occur on one or both sides of your head, and it can occur in the front or back. It might also be behind your cheeks or in or around your eyes.

Migraines can also produce nausea and vomiting, as well as increased sensitivity to light, odors, and sound. Some people get migraines with aura, which is a visual disturbance that appears before the headache pain and lasts for an hour or less.

Risk factors of migraines

Migraines can be triggered by a number of reasons, including:

History of the family

If you have a family member who suffers from migraines, you are more likely to develop them yourself.


Migraines can start at any age, although they are most common throughout puberty. Migraines tend to peak in your 30s, then steadily lessen in severity and frequency over the next few decades.


Migraines are three times as common in women than in men.

Hormonal shifts

Migraine headaches can start soon before or shortly after menstruation for women who suffer from them. During pregnancy or menopause, they may also change. Migraines usually get better after menopause.

What should I do if a migraine lasts longer than 72 hours or refuses to go away?

If your migraine lasts more than 72 hours, talk to your doctor about a treatment plan. A disease known as status migrainosus may necessitate therapy. A migraine that lasts more than 72 hours without a pain-free break is classified as this. Shorter migraine attacks are frequently handled differently than status migrainosus, and you may need to get different therapies.

Get emergency treatment if your pain is different, much more intense than normal, and contains any “red flag” symptoms.

How can I tell whether I’m suffering from a chronic migraine?

Chronic migraine is defined as 15 or more headache days per month for three months, with at least 8 of those headache days containing migraine symptoms or being treated as migraine. Chronic migraine affects between 3% to 5% of people in the United States. The term “episodic migraine” refers to a month with 14 or fewer headache days. If it is not diagnosed or treated, it can develop chronic in certain people.

A primary care physician or a headache specialist can diagnose your migraine and help you manage it. Keep track of all of your headache days—both migraine and other forms of headache—and discuss with your doctor if you suspect you have episodic or chronic migraine.

How to prevent migraine attacks

The causes of migraine are unknown, but there may be a genetic component. Environmental factors can also play a part, and some people have migraine triggers that they can identify.

Stress, particular foods, alcohol, dehydration, changes in sleep, changes in weather, hormone swings (such as the menstrual cycle), light, and fragrance are all common triggers.

While trigger avoidance may appear to be a method for people to take control of their lives, many people have spontaneous attacks, which means they aren’t prompted by anything specific.

Migraine episodes can be reduced in frequency and intensity by making lifestyle adjustments that eliminate or lessen these factors, such as consistent and adequate eating, hydration, exercise, sleep, and stress management

Migraine treatment

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to migraine treatment. If your migraines aren’t too common, you might be able to treat them using over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

OTC therapies may not be effective if your symptoms are chronic or severe. To treat existing symptoms and prevent future migraines, your doctor may be able to give stronger medication.

Over-the-counter drugs (OTC)

Mild or infrequent symptoms may be helped by over-the-counter pain medications. Aspirin (Bayer), ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Naprosyn) are all common alternatives (Aleve).

If your symptoms are more severe, you might wish to try Excedrin, a pain treatment that also contains caffeine. Caffeine can both induce and alleviate migraines, so don’t do this unless you are certain caffeine isn’t a migraine trigger for you.

Medications on prescription

Consult your doctor if over-the-counter remedies aren’t working. To help with pain, they may be able to give harsher drugs such triptans, ergots, and opioids. They may also give you medication to help you feel better.

If your migraines are severe, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help you avoid them in the future. This could involve the following:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • CGRP antagonists
  • Calcium channel blockers.

Home remedies

Changing your environment can sometimes be enough to alleviate the majority of your problems. If at all possible, find consolation in a dark, quiet room. To block sunlight, use lamps instead of overhead lighting and pull the blinds or drapes.

Limit your screen time, if at all possible, as the light from your phone, computer, TV, and other electronic screens may aggravate your symptoms.

Applying a cold compress to your temples and rubbing them may also help. If you’re not feeling nauseated, increasing your water intake might help.

You should also try to figure out what’s causing your problems and avoid it. This may aid in reducing and preventing the symptoms you’re now experiencing.


Migraine headaches are severe headaches that often come with nausea and neurological symptoms. It is divided into four stages, each with a varied duration. An assault can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, or even longer.

If someone is experiencing a particularly severe migraine episode, such as a severe or abrupt headache, fever, or convulsions, they should seek medical help right once.


Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for and a writer for Wapomu

Author at

Dr. Abel Daartey is a pharmacist by profession, a teacher, and a mentor by nature. He enjoys reading scientific journals and articles and publications in neuroscience and related topics. He aims at churning out content that educates the public and health care providers in meeting the healthcare needs of the populace.

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