Get the Right Help for Headaches
Most people who suffer from headaches tell their doctors about their pain only as an afterthought. And many sufferers have never seen a health care provider for their condition, according to the National Headache Foundation (NHF). The result is a lot of needless suffering.
“Headaches are a neurobiological disease and are treatable,” says Seymour Diamond, M.D., founder of the NHF and a headache specialist in Chicago. “If you’re experiencing headache pain that affects your work, home, and social life, make an appointment with your doctor to specifically address your headache problem.”
When seeking treatment for headaches, start with your primary care provider. Discuss his or her experience and approach to headaches, including diagnosis and treatment.
Ask for a referral to a headache clinic or specialist if your provider dismisses or minimizes your headache pain. You may hear something like, “The headache is probably due to stress at the office,” or “Women get a lot of headaches, and it’s probably just hormones.”
You should also consider a specialist if your provider immediately suggests a pain medication without first trying to determine what's causing your headaches.
“Proper care for headaches requires a doctor who’s experienced in treating them,” says Dr. Diamond. “As a patient, you need a continuum of care that entails more than someone writing you a prescription and telling you to return in a month.”
Dr. Diamond suggests you keep a headache diary. Use the diary to track your headaches in an organized way by including the date/time, length, severity, symptoms, and triggers. Make note of what medication you took and how effective it was at alleviating the symptoms. Take the diary to all your doctor appointments.
Other suggestions for obtaining care:
Prepare for your visit. Be organized, specific, direct, and ready to talk details.
Have reasonable expectations about treatment. Be patient and give treatment time to work. Be flexible and prepared to modify your treatment, as necessary.
Be honest about all medications you take and any other medical conditions you have. Tell your doctor about all your current therapies, including prescription, over-the-counter, and natural remedies. Focus on finding the best treatment options by working with your health care provider to find solutions.
Ask for detailed instructions for taking medication, and follow them.
Follow up regularly with your health care provider. Seeing your doctor on a regular basis helps you develop a relationship that can improve the treatment process. “Your treatment program will be only as good as the time you invest,” Dr. Diamond says. Schedule a follow-up appointment as you conclude each doctor visit, making sure you have enough time to evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment.