Glossary of Migraine Terms

Learning to Speak Migraine

Abdominal Migraine

Abdominal migraine is characterized by recurrent episodes of moderate to severe belly pain with nausea, with or without vomiting, in children. Often there is no associated headache. It lasts from 2 hours to 3 days, without symptoms between episodes.

Alice-in-Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland syndrome is a rare but real medical term. It is a neurological condition that affects human self-perception. Sufferers experience short episodes where they feel larger or smaller than the surrounding environment. Some of these odd changes in perception can affect only a portion of the body, such as the feeling that a leg or an arm is over- and under-sized. (from the mad hatter event pdf “Why is it called the “Alice in Wonderland” Croquet Tournament?”)


A nerve-related condition where pain is felt from stimuli that do not normally cause the sensation of pain, such as warm or cold temperatures or gentle pressure on the skin.


A medication used for reducing symptoms of nausea and vomiting


The inability to understand or express speech, temporarily or long term



Difficulty speaking sometimes without another explanation


A persistent sense of imbalance or incoordination of body movements

Autonomic Nasal Dysfunction

Unexplained nasal congestion and/or runny nose with no diagnosable cause such as a cold virus, sinus infection or allergy


A class of compounds found in cannabis (marijuana) that have several potentially helpful effects including being anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anticonvulsant

Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Difficulty understanding conversations despite having a normal hearing test. This is a problem with the way that the brain computes information from the auditory nerves.


The part of the nervous system that are made up of the brain and the spinal cord. The brain is thought to have about 100 billion neurons.


A migraine diagnosis where the person has at least 15 headache days a month, with at least 8 of the headache days having migraine features, for more than 3 months.  The definition of chronic migraine is being reconsidered


We often think of a sinus infection as a bacterial or viral infection within one or more of the 8 groups of paranasal sinuses of the face will cause facial pain or pressure, often combined with a stuffy nose or abnormal discharge.  Colds, allergies or nasal polyps often cause mucosal swelling, leading to blocked sinus openings and subsequent create an environment favorable for infection. If this infection or swelling does not resolve within 3 months, the condition becomes chronic.

But for a large portion of people who think that they have chronic sinusitis, the irritable nerves of migraine can duplicate all of these symptoms.


When a fussy baby cries or fusses without cause for more than 3 hours a day, 3 or more days a week, over at least 3 weeks

Coughing, Sneezing and Migraine

Coughing and/or sneezing as a precursor to headache and migraine, and as a symptom.

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

Episodic nausea and non-bilious vomiting with disease-free intervals.


A migraine diagnosis where the person has 0 to 14 headache days per month.


A neurological disorder causing difficulty controlling the physical movements necessary to perform speech, without other causes such as muscle weakness or paralysis


Chronic widespread pain and tenderness in muscles and tissues, often accompanied by fatigue and sleep problems. It may run in families and is thought to be caused by a problem with the central nervous system. It is a common comorbidity of migraine disease.


A condition where the motility of the stomach is not working properly. Emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine either slows or stops causing nausea, vomiting, belching, bloating, abdominal discomfort.

Interstitial Cystitis

Bladder pain, feelings of bladder pressure.

Irritable bowel syndrome

A functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder causing abdominal pain and bloating and changes to bowel movements (including constipation, diarrhea or a combination of the two). It is a common comorbidity of migraine disease.

Mal de Debarquement

A persistent feeling of rocking or swaying.


Medication-overuse headache, also known as rebound headache, is a headache disorder secondary to excessive reliance on acute medications to relieve recurrent headaches.

Although these terms are in common use currently, the Coalition For Headache and Migraine Patients ( believes the term migraine-overuse headache creates stigma by implying that the patient is to blame for taking too much medicine and the alternate term ‘Rebound Headache’ doesn’t account for the role that medication is believed to play in this type of headache. Therefore, CHAMP recommends the preferred terms ‘Medication Adaptation Headache’ or ‘Medication Response Headache.’

The complex pathophysiology behind medication overuse headaches is still only partly known, but it appears that the pain medications themselves add to central chronification, or disruptive activity of the serotonergic, dopaminergic, CGRP and cannabinoid pain pathways.

This complication affects approximately ten percent of the migraine community.  It occurs most commonly in middle age and affects three times as many women as men.  The predisposition to this condition is not well understood.

Neurogenic Cough

An unexplained dry persistent cough, possibly caused by sensory nerve damage

Neurogenic Bladder

Persistent lack of bladder control.

Oromandibular Dystonia

Uncontrollable, strong contractions of the face, jaw, and/or tongue causing difficulty in opening and closing the mouth and often affecting chewing and speech


Sensitivity to smells


Ear ache.


The part of the nervous system that includes the nerves that branch off of the spinal cord and extend throughout the body.


Olfactory hallucination, or detecting a smell that is not there, usually unpleasant, such as cigarette smoke, something burning, garbage


Being on the job but, because of illness or other medical conditions, not fully functioning.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Recurring, irresistible urges to move one’s legs because of uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations, most often occurring in the evening or nighttime when sitting or lying. The syndrome can cause sleep problems and can worsen with age. There may be a higher prevalence of RLS in people with migraine, but there are conflicting studies.


Pressure or pain across the forehead, behind the eyes or across the face that occurs frequently

Temporomandibular Pain

Pain and/or dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)  which is where the jaw bone connects to the skull. The pain can be felt in the face, jaw joint, ear, neck and shoulders, and is thought to sometimes cause migraine headaches.


A perception of ringing or other noise that is not actually there that can be associated with hearing loss, head injuries or many other issues including migraine disease.


Neck Spasms

Trigeminal Migraine


Burning, stinging or pain in the vaginal region

Burning, stinging, rawness or other pain in the area around the vaginal opening that can sometimes be caused by neuropathic (nerve) issues and lasts at least 3 months. Some studies have shown vulvodynia to have an association to migraine and other chronic diseases.

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