FDA-cleared* FDA-cleared
ages 12 and up icon Ages 12 and Up
drug free icon Drug Free

Tracking Migraine Phases

Tracking Migraine Phases 

Migraine attacks have four separate phases [1]. While not everyone will experience all four phases in every migraine attack, it is helpful to understand the symptoms and warning signs associated with each phase. 

By tracking your symptoms through the migraine stages, you will begin to see patterns [2]. Everyone experiences migraine a little bit differently, and knowing how migraine affects you and what to expect will help you find the most effective treatment plan. 

The Four Phases Of A Migraine Attack

The four phases of a migraine are:

The headache attack phase is only one part of a migraine.
Some people only experience one, two or three stages during each migraine.

The Prodrome Phase

The first phase is called prodrome, during which individuals may experience the early signs of a migraine. This phase can include one or more of the following symptoms: neck stiffness, fatigue, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, irritability, mood changes, cognitive impairment, and more [3]. People do not always realize that the start of a migraine begins with the symptoms prior to the migraine headache. This phase can last from a few hours to a couple of days.

Prodrome Phase

The Aura Phase

Aura comes after the prodrome phase. About 25-30% of migraine patients have aura, and even in those who have aura, not all attacks have aura. Those who experience migraine with aura may have symptoms of blurry vision, temporary loss of sight, a sensory tingling sensation, or numbness in their body [4]. Patients in the aura stage may also see flashes of light, geometric shapes, zig-zags, or other visual disturbances. This phase can be a few minutes long and up to an hour. 

Aura Phase

The Migraine Attack Phase

Individuals experiencing a migraine attack will notice mild to severe pain or throbbing pain in one side of their head. Other associated symptoms may include sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, nausea/vomiting [5]. This phase is the first one with headache symptoms. It can last from a few hours to several days, if not treated.

Attack Phase

The Postdrome Phase

Finally, the aftereffects of a migraine headache attack are felt during the postdrome phase. This stage may feel like a hangover or brain fog [6]. Some patients have reported the migraine aftereffects are as severe and debilitating as the attack phase. Symptoms can include fatigue, depression, euphoria, and/or difficulty concentrating. This phase may last up to two days. 

Postdrome Phase

Tracking the Phases of A Migraine 

Tracking the phases of a migraine attack is not complicated. Start by keeping a diary with information like when the symptoms began, which symptoms were experienced, how long they last, which triggers seem to have initiated or aggravated the symptoms, and which activities, medicines, or treatments brought relief [7]. It is helpful to add other information beyond the symptoms, such as menstrual cycle, stress, amount of sleep, food, and weather. This practice is called migraine journaling or keeping a migraine diary, and has proven to be an effective tool of disease management for many people living with migraine. 

A migraine phases’ chart can also be helpful for mapping symptoms to the different migraine phases. As you track your migraine attacks, a pattern may reveal itself [8]. You will see how long the symptoms typically last, when they start, and which symptoms come first. Once you know the early warning signs, you can treat your migraine early enough to ease or eliminate the symptoms of later phases.  

A healthcare provider can use the information in your migraine diary to prescribe a treatment plan specific to your needs. The Nerivio app has a migraine diary to track migraine phases. It provides downloadable data that is easily shareable with your primary care provider. At the click of a button, anyone can quickly track their migraine symptoms and begin creating a better course toward pain relief and pain freedom. 

“Are Migraine Attacks Sudden or Gradual?”

While a migraine headache attack phase may happen rather suddenly for some people, most attacks have other symptoms that lead up to the headache. The progression of non-headache symptoms in the prodrome and aura phases can last up to several days before the headache begins.

However, for some people, the first two phases (prodrome, aura) may last only a few minutes or hours before the piercing headache begins.

Tracking your symptoms will help you recognize the warning signs that lead up to the migraine headache attack phase.

“How Long Does a Migraine Last?”

Migraine duration varies widely between individuals. Most migraine attacks last between four hours to three days if left untreated. An effective treatment plan will help reduce the amount of time and amount of pain people will experience. Discuss your migraine timeline with a doctor. If possible, share a detailed migraine journal with your care provider and get a customized treatment plan.

“How Do You Know if You’re Having a Migraine?”

One of the most common symptoms is throbbing head pain. That said, migraine attacks look different for different people. Some people only experience moderate migraine headaches, some don’t experience headaches at all.
Migraine attacks involve additional symptoms on top of the headache. These symptoms may include sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, nausea, vomiting, neck pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, blurry vision, or other visual disturbances. Experiencing some of these symptoms with a painful headache that lasts for several hours to a few days may be a migraine.

Although migraine attacks can be debilitating, there is hope. Talk to a healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis and treatment—ask if Nerivio is right for you.


  1. The Migraine Trust. (n.d.). Stages of a migraine attack. https://migrainetrust.org/understand-migraine/stages-of-a-migraine-attack/
  2. American Migraine Foundation. (2019, May 02). Headache Journals: Tracking Your Migraine. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/headache-journals/
  3. American Migraine Foundation. (2022, March 17). Migraine Prodrome: Symptoms and Prevention. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-prodrome-symptoms-prevention/
  4. American Migraine Foundation. (2023, March 01). Understanding Migraine With Aura. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraine-aura/
  5. Nancy  Erickson, M. D. (2021, December 30). What are the stages of a migraine? Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/what-are-the-stages-of-a-migraine
  6. American Migraine Foundation. (2018, February 22). Migraine Hangover. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-hangover/
  7. Stanford Health Care. (n.d.). Headache Diary. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/brain-and-nerves/headache/diagnosis/headache-diary.html
  8. American Migraine Foundation. (2018, January 18). The Timeline of a Migraine Attack. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/timeline-migraine-attack/

Safety Information

It is highly recommended that you consult your doctor before taking any action based on the information above. This content does not constitute medical advice or a recommendation.

Nerivio is an FDA-cleared, drug-free therapy for acute and preventive treatment of migraine with or without aura in patients 12 years and up. It is a prescription use, a self-administered device for use in the home environment at the onset of migraine headache or aura for acute treatment, or every other day for preventive treatment.

Nerivio should not be used by people with uncontrolled epilepsy, an active implantable medical device, such as a pacemaker, hearing aid implant, or any implanted electronic device. Such use could cause electric shock, electrical interference or serious injuries or medical conditions.”

For full user instructions and safety information, please see the Nerivio User Manual.
Talk to your doctor to see if Nerivio is right for you.