Migraine headaches have multiple phases and understanding each phase in more detail can help migraine sufferers manage this condition. It is common for people who suffer from frequent migraines to experience “warning signs” before the migraines begin. These warning signs are also known as the premonitory phase or prodrome phase, which marks the beginning of a migraine attack. A research study completed by the American Headache Society determined that about 32% of people with migraines experience a prodrome. This phase begins 60 minutes to six hours before a migraine attack, and can last several hours or may even occur over several days and can present numerous symptoms. These symptoms can include irritability, concentration problems, food cravings, sensitivity to bright lights and nausea, among many other warning signs listed by the American Migraine Foundation. Research shows early identification of migraine prodrome symptoms can help signs in a timely manner, the more effective. Here are six common migraine “warning signs” or prodromes:


1. Concentration problems

Problems concentrating can be a symptom of the migraine prodrome and present huge obstacles for migraineurs. Not only is this symptom annoying, it can be dangerous if migraineurs are driving or operating machinery or equipment.

2. Nausea

Nausea is commonly known to be a symptom of a migraine, but many people don’t realize that it can begin during the prodrome phase, up to two days before there’s any head pain or other symptoms and continue on through the headache phase.

3. Irritability

Unfortunately, irritability is often one of the first symptoms of the migraine prodrome. As if migraines were not difficult enough, this makes life harder for migraine sufferers and those who are close to them. This irritability also often leaves migraineurs feeling guilty.

4. Phonophobia

Phonophobia, increased sensitivity to sound, is a common migraine prodrome symptom that can continue through the rest of the migraine phases. Phonophobia often causes individuals to seek quiet places, wear ear plugs, and cover their heads with pillows to avoid sound. Phonophobia can also be accompanied by sensitivity to light.

5. Repetitive yawning

Another often overlooked Migraine prodrome symptom is repetitive yawning. Unlike regular “I’m tired” yawning, it may be excessive and occur every few minutes.

6. Fatigue

Migraine prodrome symptoms can include fatigue. This fatigue is far beyond feeling tired. This fatigue is weariness and exhaustion to the point where the migraineur may feel nearly unable to respond to anything. Fatigue can continue throughout the other stages of a migraine.

Prodrome symptoms vary from person to person and understanding your migraine experience can be an essential cornerstone in finding the right treatment option. Maintaining a headache diary can help people with migraine recognize their symptoms, migraine triggers, and the warning signs they experience before each migraine. Identifying these symptoms, and using them to catch and treat a migraine attack early, is key to lessening the severity of headache—or in some cases, even stopping them.

More than 36 million Americans suffer from migraines, but only one-third of migraine sufferers talk with a doctor about their headaches and migraine treatment. If you experience migraine attacks, click here to sign up to participate in a paid migraine research study with Boston Clinical Trials.