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How to Go To A Migraine Doctor or Neurologist

How to Go To A Migraine Doctor or Neurologist

prepare for a migraine doctor

How to prepare for a visit to a migraine doctor

If you keep getting migraines, forget over the counter medication. It is time you saw a migraine doctor! Visiting doctors sounds like too much work for most migrainers, and they opt for temporary relief from over the counter painkillers. What they do not know is that they are making their conditions worse and they risk getting rebound headaches1.

Whether it is a first visit or a follow-up visit, doctor's appointments are never easy. To add to the burden, doctors are busy people, and you need to make the most out of every brief visit. Let’s look at how to prepare for a visit to a migraine doctor.

What happens during a doctor’s visit?

Usually, a doctor's visit is a two-way interaction. The doctor asks you questions, you provide answers and ask him/her questions too. Here are some of the questions to expect from your migraine doctor2:

  • How often do your migraines occur?
  • Have you identified any triggers?
  • What symptoms do you have?
  • When did the symptoms begin?
  • What makes the symptoms worse?
  • What makes the symptoms improve?
  • Are you on any migraine medication?
  • Is there a history of migraines in your immediate family? 3
  • Have you suffered any head injuries?

Where the doctor deems it necessary, he/she might ask you to take some tests2 or perform some activities:

The doctor might ask for samples of your blood. Also, he/she can test your blood pressure.

  • He/she may suggest some lifestyle changes to alleviate some pain such as exercise, enough sleep, and avoiding certain foods.
  • The doctor might perform CT scans or MRIs to rule out any other possible causes of your headaches, especially if it is your first visit.
  • Finally, the doctor might also give you some prescription medication to prevent frequent migraine attacks or reduce the severity of migraine pains.

How can I ensure a successful doctor’s visit?

For a successful visit, there are a few things that you need to do before visiting the doctor and during the visit. Bottom line, you must maximize the little time you get with your doctor if you want your migraine to get better.

Here’s what you need to do before the visit:

Gather records from the previous doctors3.

It is crucial that you show your doctor records from previous doctors and any medical history that relates to your migraine. These records will help the doctor understand your migraine comprehensively. Thus, visit your previous doctors and ask for a copy of your records. Some doctors might be reluctant to give records directly to a patient. This, however, should not deter you since you have a legal right to your medical records as per the HIPAA act. Ensure that you make the request a few months before your doctor's visit because, under the act, practitioners have up to 30 days to provide you with a copy. 

Keep a diary3.

Keeping a migraine diary sounds like a nuisance, but it is a wise move that can help your doctor establish a pattern, even when you don't see one. Diary records help doctors to diagnose your triggers and set a treatment regimen. Every time you get a migraine attack, record the events leading to your migraine and how you feel during each migraine. You can make your records on a printed form, a notebook, or on your computer.

Keep a medication tracker form3.

Each time you use a new painkiller, write it down on a form. For each drug, write the name, the dosage you took, the date you started and stopped, as well as the outcome. If there were any side effects, do not forget to include them. Do not forget to write down any supplements that you are using. Medication tracker forms will help your doctor see what has worked for you and what hasn’t. This will make his/her decision easier if any new medication is to be administered. Also, it will prevent you from using the same medicine twice.

Write down some questions and leave spaces to write down the answers3.

List down any questions you have about your recent headaches and their symptoms. Questions will enable you to get new and essential information about your migraines.

Research your family history.

Are there members of your family who have migraines? Migraines are an inherited condition. Most sufferers’ parents and siblings tend to have migraines too4.

Once you have all the necessary records and questions, you are ready for a fruitful visit to your doctor’s. What should you do during the visit to get the most out of it? Here’s what:

Catch your doctor up briefly.

Tell him/her how your condition has been since the last time you saw a doctor. If there is anything you need, do not hesitate to ask. For example, if your migraine is triggered by what you eat, ask for some help with your diet.

Bring your migraine diary, medical records, and medication tracker forms.

According to Dr. Peter Goadsby, the Director of the UCSF Headache Center, records are a valuable tool for doctors. They give your doctor very crucial information about your migraine condition4. Upon looking at them, the doctor can single out why your condition is different from that of any other migraineur. Who knows, he/she might get some “aha” moments and help you make progress.

Be honest.Some migrainers who keep a diary on their computer like to edit out some information before printing a copy for the doctor. We are all afraid of sharing information that we deem embarrassing, and this denies us lots of big breaks. During your visit, do not downplay any symptoms if you want to get the best solutions.

Ask about any concerns that you have.

Most migrainers want to try alternative therapy to minimize their pain or gain some long-term benefits that could cure their migraines. For instance, some migrainers take magnesium supplements to prevent a magnesium deficiency which can make them more susceptible to migraine attacks. Other alternative therapies include the use of essential oils, acupuncture, and acupressure. Ask the doctor which therapies are the best for you. Also, ask about any possible side effects of the medicine he/she prescribes and if you do not feel comfortable with something the doctor tells you to do, do not hesitate to speak out.

Take someone with you.

Some moral support is always excellent especially if you are visiting the doctor for the first time. If you do all the things we have discussed above before and during the visit, you should expect to get lots of information from the doctor. Having an extra ear will help you capture more details. Moreover, you will have someone to refer from if you forget some information.

Double check recommendations.

Double check your recommended dosages for any new medication that the doctor gives you. If you have made any plans with your doctor, for instance, meal plans, repeat the plan to your doctor. In doing so, you will ensure that you are on the same page and avoid over/under dosing medicine. 

If you do all the things recommended above before and during your doctor's visit, you stand a better chance at recovering. Use your time with the doctor wisely to get the most out of your visit. Also, avoid asking for favors such as extra time as this will damage your relationship with the doctor.

Is a migraine doctor a neurologist?

A migraine doctor isn’t necessarily a neurologist. A neurologist treats disorders that affect the nervous system5. The human nervous system has two major divisions:

  • Central nervous system: the brain and the spinal cord6.
  • Peripheral nervous system: neural elements such as the skin and eyes and other sensory receptors6.

Basically, a neurologist treats disorders that affect the spinal cord, brain, and nerves such as:

  • Headache disorders
  • Cerebrovascular diseases like stroke
  • Brain infections
  • Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord disorders
  • Seizure disorders
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease

Many neurologists have additional training in their areas of interest (sleep medicine, neuromuscular, movement disorders, epilepsy, and stroke) so if you are to visit one, ensure that he specializes in pain management6.

When should I visit a neurologist?

If you want to receive the best care for your migraine, visit a primary doctor first5. He/she might be able to give an adequate solution for your migraine. If the doctor cannot help, he/she will refer you to the best neurologist who has additional training in headaches and pain management. You can opt to visit a neurologist directly if57:

  • Your migraine is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, loss of vision, seizures, and loss of consciousness. All these are indicators of a more severe migraine.
  • You have two or more continuous headaches in a week.
  • Your headaches keep getting worse, and they are not responding to treatment.
  • Your migraines began after a head injury.
  • Your migraine is preventing you from carrying out your daily activities.

 

How should I prepare for a visit to a neurologist?

Make notes about your migraine experiences prior to your visit to the neurologist4. Some of the details you should include in your notes are: when your migraines occur, how often they occur, if your menstrual cycle contributes to the (for women) 2, whether light or noise bothers you, changes in vision during headaches (blurry vision, black spots, or flashes of light), how you sleep during migraines, the weather at the time of your migraine, and foods and drinks consumed in the past 24 hours7.

Have a monthly migraine calendar. Monthly migraine calendars are vital as they help your neurologist to detect a pattern in your headaches. However, if you have not begun keeping a calendar and you have severe migraines, you can make your visit without a calendar. Just make notes about what you recall, and you are good to go.

Like when visiting a primary doctor, keep a list of all medication you have used for your migraine and if they have been of any help.

Be prepared to answer the questions that the neurologist asks such as adverse reactions to medications or if you have started any medication recently. Remember to give specific answers to these questions.

Finally, you can bring a loved one to ensure that you grasp all the knowledge that the neurologist has to offer.

Long Story Short

All migrainers long for the day that they find relief for their pain or get cured entirely. Many have found that a great way for their migraines is taking magnesium supplements to inhibit inflammation, relax blood vessels, prevent the buildup of lactic acid, and get better sleep8.

Visiting migraine doctors is the first step to seeking relief from migraines. If you want the best results, visit a migraine doctor first. Ensure that you do not leave out any critical information about your migraine during this visit. Once the doctor notices that there is no improvement or that your migraine is becoming worse after medication, he/she will refer you to a neurologist who specializes in headaches.

If you have to take any follow-up tests after your visit to a doctor or a neurologist, make appointments immediately. Also, do not forget to send a copy of the neurologist report to your primary care doctor to enable him/her to keep in tabs with any new recommendations. Finally, make sure you follow all the steps that we have recommended before and after your visits, and you will be one step closer to healing.

 

Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208042/
  2. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/migraine
  3. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/what-to-expect-from-a-first-time-visit-to-the-headache-specialist/
  4. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/interview_goadsby_understanding_and_treating_migraine/
  5. https://healthcare.utah.edu/neurosciences/neurology/neurologist.php
  6. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/highland/departments-centers/neurology/what-is-a-neurologist.aspx
  7. https://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/headache/headache-neurologist.aspx
  8. https://www.migrainestop.com/blogs/news/5-habits-that-help-migraines-and-the-long-term-benefits-of-magnesium

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