We performed the present study to compare patients with migraine and tension-type headache (TTH) in their behaviour during the attacks and the manoeuvres to relieve the pain. One hundred thirty consecutive patients with either migraine (n = 75) or TTH (n = 55) were questioned (including the use of a checklist) concerning their usual behaviour during the attacks and non-pharmacological manoeuvres performed to relieve the pain. The results of the two types of headache were compared. Patients with migraine tended to perform more manoeuvres than patients with TTH (mean: 4.3 vs. 3.6). These manoeuvres included pressing and applying cold stimuli to the painful site, trying to sleep, changing posture, sitting or reclining in bed (using more pillows than usual to lay down), isolating themselves, using symptomatic medication, inducing vomiting, changing diet and becoming immobile during the attacks. The only measure predominantly reported by patients with TTH was scalp massage. Migraineurs, compared to patients with TTH, changing eating habits, pressed the pain site; there were no significant differences between the two groups. The behaviour of patients during headache attacks varies with the diagnosis. Measures that do not always result in pain relief are performed in order to prevent its worsening or to improve associated symptoms. These behavioural differences may be because of the different pathogenesis of the attacks or of various styles of dealing with the pain. They can also aid the differential diagnosis between headaches in doubtful cases.