When you have migraine attacks, getting an appropriate diagnosis and treatment is important. Not every doctor is familiar with the ins and outs of migraine, and seeing a specialist like a neurologist can help you get specialized and focused care for migraine and all its associated symptoms.
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in treating diseases and disorders of the nervous system. They see people with:
- neurological conditions
- problems with their senses
- neuromuscular disorders
- infections of the nervous system
- spinal cord disorders
Neurologists specialize in disorders of the nervous system, including the brain. Migraine is a neurological disorder. A neurologist can help make an accurate diagnosis of migraine, as well as rule out any other potential neurological condition that may cause similar symptoms.
Neurologists are knowledgeable about the latest treatments for migraine attacks and can help develop an appropriate treatment plan and fine-tune any medications that may be helpful for you.
They’re often on the forefront of any new discoveries for their field and can provide you with the newest information and treatment options.
When you see a neurologist, they’ll likely do a physical exam as well as a neurological exam. This is to test muscle strength and coordination, rule out any other diagnoses, and get a sense of your overall neurological health.
They’ll take a detailed medical history and ask you questions about your migraine history, since migraine diagnosis is strongly linked to medical history and reporting of symptoms.
They may send you for additional tests if they want to rule out any other medical conditions. But to diagnose migraine, neurologists often go by patient report.
What you need for your first neurologist appointment
When you see your neurologist for the first time, being prepared can help you get the most out of the visit. It also helps to give them as much information as possible.
Some things to bring to your first appointment include:
- your insurance card and ID
- a migraine log: 7–14 days of any symptoms or migraine attacks, including any triggers
- a list of current prescriptions and any over-the-counter drugs you take (including dose and frequency)
- medical records, including recent imaging tests or any other tests
- any questions you have for the doctor
Neurologists are specialists, so even with many insurances, your copay might be higher than when seeing a regular practitioner.
The cost can depend on many things, including:
- whether you have insurance
- whether your neurologist takes your insurance
- where you live
- what is done at the visit
The cost of the visit can vary widely, so be sure to get an estimate from the hospital or practice. When migraine itself can be expensive, this can be yet another cost and stressor.
If you’re underinsured or uninsured, some neurologists may offer reduced-fee care. Call the office and ask to speak with the office manager to see whether they have a payment plan or a financial hardship program.
If you get migraine care at a hospital, many hospitals have programs that help provide care for those who have trouble affording it. Call their financial office to see what options may be available.
There’s no cure for migraine, but there are a variety of treatments available.
Treatment can depend on a variety of things, including your age, how often you have migraine attacks, the kind of migraine you have, the severity, any associated symptoms, and any other medical conditions you might have.
Treatment plans can include:
- lifestyle changes, like managing stress or avoiding migraine triggers
- hormones, especially if the migraine attacks are related to your menstrual cycle
- alternative medicine
Read this article for more information about treatment options for migraine.
Questions to ask when choosing a neurologist
When you see any kind of doctor, having questions for them to see whether they’re a good match is always a good thing. This can help you determine whether that particular doctor is a good fit for you.
Questions you might want to ask include:
- Do you have special training in headaches or migraine?
- Where are you located?
- Do you take my insurance?
- How long have you been practicing?
- Do you see many people with migraine or headache?
- If you’re looking for a doctor for your child, ask whether they have training or specialization in pediatrics or pediatric migraine.
After your first visit with a neurologist, the next steps will vary. If they’re not able to diagnose migraine from your medical history or exam, they may ask you to keep a symptom log.
They may also send you for a variety of imaging tests to rule out any other diagnoses. If they want you to get any other assessments with other specialists, you’ll need to schedule those as needed.
If you do have a diagnosis of migraine, you may be prescribed medication based on your symptoms. You’ll also get instructions for taking any medication they prescribe.
If you find that a medication doesn’t work for you, the neurologist will work with you to find medication that’s more effective. They’ll also talk with you about lifestyle changes that may help reduce symptoms and offer advice on how to identify any potential migraine triggers.
Although migraine is a chronic condition, there can be periods of remission.
There are also a variety of treatments to help prevent migraine attacks and mitigate symptoms when they start to occur. Knowing the triggers of migraine can also help to minimize and prevent migraine attacks and help you manage your condition.
Seeing a neurologist regularly may help you maintain the best treatment for your migraine and to address any issues that might come up.
Migraine is a neurological condition. Seeing a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in neurological disorders, can be helpful in many ways.
A neurologist can provide expert assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Their focus on the neurological system may help provide insight into aspects of migraine attacks, and their up-to-date knowledge of discoveries and research in the field can help with developing treatment plans and everyday life.