To get the most from an appointment with a healthcare professional who specializes in migraine, you‘ll want to show up prepared.
“Detailed information is necessary to make a diagnosis and create an effective treatment plan,” says Amaal J. Starling, M.D., anassociate professor of the Department of Neurology with Mayo Clinic. “Everybody’s an individual, so we need to know their specific story in order to give the best care.”
Before your appointment
By gathering the following information ahead of time, you’ll be able to have a more productive conversation with your healthcare professional, says Dr Starling.
Keep a migraine headache diary
This will help you and your healthcare professional to better understand your migraine disease. However, the process doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort.
Don’t worry about capturing dozens of details about your diet, sleep, stress level or other lifestyle factors, says Dr. Starling.
“I don’t recommend focusing on triggers because it’s stressful, often unhelpful and puts blame on the patient,” she says. “Tracking all the migraine symptoms during every migraine attack can be overwhelming.”
For those reasons, she recommends a simpler “stoplight diary.” Mark calendar days as red, yellow or green based on how you feel.
- Green days: mild impairment in function.
- Yellow days: moderate impairment in function.
- Red days: severe impairment where you may be bedbound.
Also, jot down when you use medications to treat attacks.
Once you’ve gathered a month’s worth of data, look at your diary. Calculate the number of days with migraine symptoms.How often do your migraine attacks occur? Do you get attacks once a month? Once a week? Once a day? How long do they typically last?
Bring your diary with you to your medical appointment so you can refer to it.
Describe your migraine symptoms
What does the pain usually feel like? Is the head pain accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, light or sound sensitivity, or fatigue? Finally, what’s the impact of your migraine attacks on your life? In other words, on a scale of 1 to 10, how disabling are your migraine symptoms?
Write a list of questions
List everything you want to remember to ask during the appointment. You might include questions like:
- Could you take a look at my headache diary? Is there anything else I should track in addition to what’s listed?
- What lifestyle changes can I make to prevent migraine attacks?
- Could any of the medications I take, including birth control pills, trigger or worsen my migraine symptoms?
- Could underlying medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, contribute to my migraine attacks?
- Would prescription medications or hormonal therapy be likely to help?
- Are there other therapies that may help?
- What are the side effects and drug interactions of the medications that you’ve prescribed?
- What can I do to handle or prevent side effects or drug interactions?
List of what you’ve already tried
It can be difficult to remember all your medications and treatments, especially if you’ve had migraine for many years. That’s why it’s helpful to gather this information before your appointment. It will help you avoid leaving out important details. Make sure to capture:
- How you currently manage migraine, including supplements and self-care measures.
- Medications and treatments you’ve tried in the past, even if they didn’t work for you. Record the dosage, how long you took it, any side effects and how effectively it managed your symptoms.
- Other relevant conditions, injuries or illnesses such as a history of concussion or depression.
During your appointment
Bring your diary, list of questions, medical records, and personal and family medical history with you to the appointment.
Be honest with your healthcare professional. Talk about what has worked and what hasn’t. Discuss any treatment options you’ve tried, including alternative and complementary medicines. If applicable, make sure to mention mindfulness practices, relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy, too.
“There is always something we can do to reduce the burden of migraine disease,” says Dr. Starling. “Don’t hesitate to ask questions and offer details. The more we know about your experience with migraine, the more effectively we can tailor your treatment.”
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