Talk with your doctor to manage migraines

Feature Article- Fri., May. 6, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Americans are all too familiar with the headaches caused by daily life, but nearly 30 million Americans experience more than “just a bad headache.” Migraines are different from the everyday headache and are characterized by throbbing head pain, usually located on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light or sound.

Typically, migraine sufferers work with a doctor to treat their condition, and discussions during these office visits play an important role in developing a patient’s migraine management plan. Findings from a new national survey released by the National Headache Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline suggest that migraine patients could be doing more to make the most out of their medical visits.

The survey of 1,218 migraine patients and 533 doctors found that patients saw their doctor an average of six times in the past year, but 70 percent of these visits were related to other health conditions. Despite this, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of patients reported migraines were discussed during visits where migraine was not the primary reason for the visit.

“The survey results show patients and doctors are having important conversations about migraine management; however, these conversations are not always robust or the primary purpose of a patient’s visit, making discussion points unclear,” says Robert Dalton, executive director of the National Headache Foundation. “By giving patients and doctors tools to guide conversations, we can help patients and doctors make the most of the limited time they have to talk about migraines.”

Here are some steps patients can take to help have better conversations with their doctor about migraines:

• Prepare for a conversation with your doctor so you get everything out of it that you want. Keep a migraine diary. Be organized, specific, direct and ready to talk details. Be prepared to provide information on your migraine history and general medical history. Track your attacks and how you treat them. Note the date, length of each migraine, severity, symptoms, triggers and impact on your life. Track medication taken, when, for how long and how effective it was in relieving pain and symptoms.

According to the survey, almost all doctors (96 percent) agreed that tools such as a migraine diary, medication usage tracker, pain severity scale or symptoms checklist would help them have more meaningful conversations with their patients about migraines. Likewise, 70 percent of patients said they would find such tools helpful when talking with their healthcare provider about migraines.

• Visit a physician specifically about your migraines. Call the National Headache Foundation for a state-by-state list of member physicians or visit

• If you are taking medication to treat your migraine attacks and are still experiencing migraine pain, you owe it to yourself to let your doctor know. Sometimes solving the problem starts with asking the right questions: Do you want more relief from your migraine medicine? Do you ever take more than one medicine to treat a single migraine attack? Do you ever need more than one dose of your prescription migraine medicine to treat a single migraine attack? If you answered yes to any of these questions, tell your doctor.

Additional survey data and tools to help patients prepare for doctor visits can be found at and

Editorial and other support for the survey was provided by the National Headache Foundation, with funding, development and other support provided by GlaxoSmithKline.


Courtesy of ARA Content

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