Five Steps to Finding A Good Migraine Doctor

Did you know that most migraine patients are not being treated by their doctor?

The Migraine Research Foundation states the following facts:

  • In 2017, there are only about 500 certified headache specialists in the U.S. and 38 million sufferers.
  • More than half of all migraine sufferers are never diagnosed.
  • The vast majority of migraine sufferers do not seek medical care for their pain.
  • Only 4% of migraine sufferers who seek medical care consult headache and pain specialists.
  • Although 25% of sufferers would benefit from preventive treatment, only 12% of all sufferers receive it.

Are you being treated for your headaches? Have you found a good doctor? Or have you ever felt that your doctor just didn’t get your migraines? Or felt that your pain was being dismissed? How can you find a good doctor who understands you and your migraines?

In this post you will find five steps to finding a good doctor, warning signs to avoid and learn what questions to ask.

First what kind of doctors treat migraine and headache patients?

  1. Primary Care doctors
  2. Neurologists
  3. Headache specialists

migraine doctor

Step One: Get a recommendation.

This can be a recommendation from friends or family that know of a good doctor. If you don’t know anyone personally you can go online. You can look for doctors that are UCNS (United Council for Neurological Specialties) Certified. This organization is a non-profit with a mission. “The mission of the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties is to provide for accreditation and certification with the goal of enhancing the quality of training for physicians in neurological subspecialties and the quality of patient care.” On this site you can find doctors who specialize in the type of migraine headaches you experience.

Another resource is the American Headache Foundation, they have a directory of Academic Headache Centers around the US.

Step Two: Know what kind of doctor to avoid.

Doctors are busy and often do not have much time to see patients, however you need to be able to develop a good working relationship with your doctor so look out for the following signs. If…

  • Your doctor doesn’t listen to you or you feel like you are not being heard.
  • There is no communication.
  • You don’t have a treatment plan.
  • There is no respect or trust between you and your doctor.

If you see these signs in your doctor, it might be a good idea to look for another doctor. Your doctor should be openly sharing information with you. Your doctor should have a clear treatment plan, if you don’t have one this is a sign you might need a new doctor. You need to trust and respect your doctor but your doctor should also respect you too. If not, you should find another doctor.

Step Three: Good patient and doctor relationship = better treatment.

  • Keys to a good relationship with your doctor are TRUST and RESPECT.
  • You also need honest and clear communication between you and your doctor. Don’t downplay your pain or how your life is disrupted by your migraines. Take along your migraine diary and show your doctor.
  • You need to know what your treatment plan is and you should have input into this plan, so make sure that this is clear.
  • You want your relationship with your doctor should be a partnership. Remember that your doctor can’t just fix you. You have an even bigger role in recovering your health than your doctor. So work together with him or her and realize that it will take time to find what works.

Step Four: Be an active participant in your health and wellbeing.

As patients we all have a responsibility and it goes way beyond just showing up to the doctor for a prescription.

What can we do as migraine patients to help our doctor?

  • Keep a migraine diary. It can be as simple as just marking an X on the days that you have a headache or if you have chronic migraines, it can be an X on the days you are headache free. You can even consider taking a picture of yourself when you have a migraine so your doctor can visualize what you are experiencing while experiencing a migraine.
  • Know your health history. Request your records from previous doctors. Know what medications you have taken in the past and what testing you have done.
  • Be open-minded to treatments. Your doctor may even want to try a medication or treatment you’ve had before but with a different dosage, be open to trying it.
  • Don’t agree to try a treatment you know that you won’t follow through with. It’s okay to say NO.
  • Be aware of triggers and life-style factors that could be contributing to your migraines. Be vigilant in keeping up with basic care of your body- eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and managing your stress.
  • Avoid relying heavily on medications which can cause medication overuse headaches. Try to minimize the amount of medications you are taking for acute pain relief.
  • Have treatment goals clear in mind.
  • Don’t rely on medications to do all the work.
  • Stay engaged in your health care! You should be the director of your healthcare.

Step Five: Ask your doctor questions.

Bring along a friend and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions. Remember that this is a partnership. You don’t want to be in the dark and you want to have a say in what happens to you.

What kind of questions should you ask?

  • When you first meet with your doctor make sure to tell him/her your biggest concerns. Ask how they will address and work with those concerns.
  • Find out how to contact your doctor between appointments.
  • Find out how your other illnesses affect your migraines. If you have conditions that are not being treated, are those illnesses related to your migraines?
  • Ask what the doctor expects of you as a patient.
  • Ask your doctor what they define as successful treatment. Do you agree with their view? If not, can you work together to redefine what successful treatment would be for you?
  • Find out what the protocol is for when you have a severe migraine that cannot be treated at home.
  • Does your doctor have any alternative to avoid medication overuse headaches?
  • Do they have any resources to recommend to you?

Finding a doctor that can treat your headaches and migraines can be a challenge but if you follow these five steps you’ll be on your way to developing a better relationship with your doctor which will lead to better treatment for your migraine headaches.

Get a recommendation.

Know what doctors to avoid.

Develop a good relationship with your doctor.

Be an active participant in your health and wellbeing.

Ask your doctor questions and don’t go alone.

Did you find this article helpful? Download the FREE Guide to Choosing a Good Doctor. 

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Learn more about headache and migraine treatments at the Headache and Migraine Summit starting July 10-17th, 2017!



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