5 Early Signs of a Migraine That You Might Ignore

As any migraine sufferer knows, the pain is intense. Add severe light sensitivity or even vomiting into the experience and a migraine can truly ruin your day.

Unfortunately, finding a medication or holistic remedy to relieve the suffering is difficult. So when you seek help from a doctor for your migraines, chances are that he or she will first counsel you to control your migraine triggers.

This can be challenging because there are so many possibilities – including stress, dehydration, hormonal changes, excessive heat, eye strain, allergies, and more – and the trigger may have occurred many hours before the migraine actually begins.

One thing that can help is to recognize the signs that a migraine is coming on. There are often clues that show up several hours before the pain, and while it may already be too late to stop the headache, reading those clues can help you pinpoint your triggers and get yourself to a dark, quiet space to ride it out.


For reasons that are not fully understood, migraines are often accompanied by a loss of color in the face. Sometimes pallor is accompanied by dark circles under the eyes. This symptom is more common in children but can affect anyone.

Unless you look in a mirror frequently throughout the day, this is also a symptom that might be missed. But if a co-worker suddenly asks you if you feel okay, or you notice that you’ve gone pale as you wash your hands in the bathroom, think about whether any other of the following early signs of a migraine are also present.


Migraines and nausea are frequently linked, and some migraine sufferers actually vomit repeatedly during a migraine attack. Queasy stomach may be an unfortunate companion for the length of your headache, but can sometimes occur before your head begins to hurt.

No one is sure exactly why this link exists, but researchers speculate that it has to do with rapid changes in brain chemistry prior to the onset of a migraine. Interestingly, in people with a history of migraines, gut pain and vomiting (even in the absence of a headache) is called an abdominal migraine.


Fatigue is a non-specific symptom that is connected to hundreds of different ailments. However, the sort of fatigue that may signal a migraine is intense and tends to wash over you unexpectedly. It’s different from the draggy feeling that comes from not getting enough sleep. It’s more like a light switch gets flipped to the off position.

Migraine-related fatigue may also occur as depression or even anxiety. Motivation ebbs away and it becomes challenging to put thoughts together. Some people even struggle with choosing words and speaking clearly during this period.

Mood swings

Some migraines are linked to changes in the body’s hormonal balance. And though we can’t actually feel that shift happening, we may experience mood swings as a result.

Because of the hormonal link, it’s not uncommon for women to experience migraines at a particular point in their menstrual cycle. Tracking migraines along with your cycle can help you prepare for a migraine’s likely onset.

However, hormones in both men and women shift for many different reasons over the course of a day, week, and month. While we think about hormones primarily in relation to the reproductive system, they are actually essential to most of the body’s processes, regulating things like hunger, sleep cycles, blood sugar, and heartbeat.

Sore neck

Stress can definitely trigger a migraine, but it’s impossible to avoid stress entirely. Some of us store that tension in our neck and shoulder muscles in an effort to get through the day. If you notice that your neck muscles are tightening up and your shoulders creeping up toward your ears, consider whether stress might be the cause.

If so, that sore neck might signal the onset of a migraine within the next few hours. However, having clenched and sore neck muscles may also cause a tension headache in anyone, even if they don’t typically suffer headaches.

For unlucky migraine sufferers, a tension headache can morph into something called a mixed tension migraine, during which the inflammation caused by a tension headache leads into a migraine episode.

Over time, migraine sufferers can tell when a headache is coming on before the pain truly hits. Loved ones may also get good at recognizing “the look” that signals when a person is in the prodrome, or pre-headache, phase of a migraine. Knowing that it’s coming may be a small comfort, but it can help as you work with your doctor to determine the best possible treatment that both minimizes your episodes and relieves the pain when you’re suffering.