A Doctor Discussion Guide for Migraines

Medically reviewed by Jennifer Berry on May 3, 2016Written by Jennifer Berry on May 3, 2016
doctor discussion guide

During a migraine attack, your body is in a battle. It’s you and your well-being against your throbbing head pain. But you’re not alone: Your doctor is on your team and wants you to win.

To find the best possible treatment for migraines, you need good communication with your doctor. This includes asking the right questions, sharing important information, and bringing up any concerns.

If you’re working on a migraine treatment plan, here are the key points you need to cover at your next doctor’s appointment. Consider writing down this information in advance so you don’t forget any details while you’re there.

Your symptoms

When describing your pain, be honest. Your doctor needs to know exactly how bad it hurts and how long the pain lasts. If you have other symptoms, such as nausea, mention them too. Describe what the pain feels like and where it’s located. The severity of your pain will be an important factor in how your doctor treats your migraines. The American Headache Society recommends a tool called MIDAS (migraine disability assessment) that can help you understand the severity of your migraines.

How often your migraines occur

Migraine frequency is a crucial piece of information for your treatment plan. If you get migraines twice a week or more, you’ll probably be put on a daily preventive medication to help stop them from happening.

Preventive therapy doesn’t help during a migraine attack. Still, it’s important for many people who get frequent migraines for two reasons. First, it helps stop migraines before they start so you don’t have to suffer through as many attacks. Second, it helps you avoid side effects from using pain relievers too often.

Pain relievers shouldn’t be used more than twice a week. Overdosing can lead to dangerous side effects such as stomach bleeding and rebound headaches, also known as medication overuse headaches (MOHs). These headaches aren’t the same as migraines. They happen when your pain medicine wears off, prompting you to take more medicine.

Other health conditions

Certain conditions can trigger migraines, even if they seem unrelated. That’s why your doctor needs to know about all your medical conditions to choose the best treatment.

Some possible migraine-causing diseases include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • asthma

Tell your doctor if you have any of these conditions. For women, make sure you discuss whether your headaches occur with your menstrual cycle or with menopause.

Family history

Do migraines run in your family? Researchers have found that in some cases migraines are linked to genetics. If someone in your family gets migraines, tell your doctor about it. Also share your family history of other diseases and conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This helps give your doctor better insight into your health, even if you don’t have these problems.

What medications you’ve tried

If you’re getting migraines, you’ve probably tried some medications for relief. Your doctor needs to know which medications you’ve tried and how they worked for you. If you have the medicines at home, consider taking a photo of the bottle on your phone or writing down the exact name of the medication. This will give your doctor clear information and will remove any guesswork. Some brand names have several different formulas. You need to discuss exactly which ones you’ve used.

You also need to tell your doctor about any other medications you may be currently using, even if they’re not for migraines. Some medications should not be taken together, and others may have dangerous interactions. Your doctor should always have an up-to-date, complete list of all your medications.

Alternative treatments

It’s important to tell your doctor about everything you take, down to your regular multivitamin. Even natural supplements can have side effects and serious interactions with other medications. Your doctor needs to know about any herbs, vitamins, and other supplements you take, even if you don’t take them every day. In some cases, you may continue taking them, but you’ll need to know they’re safe and will work with your plan.

If you’ve tried other alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage, or relaxation, tell your doctor about them too. Your doctor may recommend another alternative treatment for you, or may ask you to continue these treatments in conjunction with your medication.

When to expect relief

Migraine relief often doesn’t happen overnight. Many patients must stick with their plan for two to three months before they can decide if it’s working for them. This gives your body adequate time to adjust to the medication.

If you’re taking a preventive medication, ask when you should start noticing a decrease in your migraine attacks. If you’re taking medicine to treat the attacks or an abortive medication, ask how quickly it should start working. Some abortive medications take an hour or more to work. If you get relief within two to four hours, it may be considered a successful treatment.

Follow-up care

Finally, talk about a follow-up visit. You should see your doctor regularly to discuss your treatment and how well it’s working. You may also need to get prescriptions refilled and modify your plan if needed.

In the meantime, you may want to keep a migraine diary to track your migraine frequency and symptoms. When you return for your follow-up appointment, you’ll have plenty of valuable information to share with your doctor about your migraines.

Make the most of your doctor visit by asking the right questions and sharing the information your doctor needs. This discussion is crucial to getting relief from your migraines. With a little preparation and honest communication, you’ll be on the path to a healthier life without migraines standing in your way.

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