Patient Education

Splitting Hairs: Migraine vs. Migraines

When my first headache specialist said migraine (no S) instead of migraines, I was mighty confused. He’s a brilliant man and obviously knows what he’s saying, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the distinction. I eventually did, but am now worried that my adoption of his language may confuse readers. Here’s the deal: I’ll explain the terms that I use and you’ll let me know if you ever get confused by them.

Migraine (without an S) refers to the disease of migraine, which I use just like I would use the word epilepsy. It refers to the physical mechanisms and all the related symptoms of the disease. It’s the gestalt.

Tacking an S onto the end of the word gives it an entirely different meaning. To me, migraines refers to an episode of the disease. Someone with epilepsy has seizures; someone with migraine has migraines.

I do the same thing with headache and headaches. Headache is the disorder; headaches are the physical manifestations of the disorder.

It’s more clear to use migraine attack or migraine episode to indicate each event, but it doesn’t feel right to me. Maybe this is because the distinction is perfectly clear or, more likely, my nit-picky approach to language encourages me to zero in on slight word differences.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Splitting Hairs: Migraine vs. Migraines”

  1. I also suffer from chronic daily headaches. Back in 99 I was working at a group home for adolescent boys and while restraining a boy he threw his head back and hit me in my jaw. Ive had 3 surgeries on my jaw since then and have suffered with depression, jaw pain, and chronic daily headaches. I can relate to everything you have discussed in your blog and I find it comforting to find someone that feels the same physical symptoms as I have felt for years. I have finally found a good pain doctor that is searching for answers and help for me but I have been a guinea pig for several years by certain neurologists that just want me to be doped up on heavy narcotics all the time.
    Feel free to email me anytime…it would be nice to have someone to share with.

    God Bless

    I’ve emailed you, Tami.

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