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Starting the Migraine Conversation with Your Healthcare Provider

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Lawrence Newman, MD, FAHS

Vice Chair, American Migraine Foundation, Director, NYU Langone Medical Center — Division of Headache

As a neurologist who sees patients with migraine — and a migraine patient myself — I understand how you might feel intimidated when talking with your doctor about migraine.

With a little preparation, however, these visits can produce amazingly helpful results. Here are a few suggestions for navigating those discussions.

1. Preparation is key

As someone who went decades before being properly diagnosed, I can tell you that a correct diagnosis from the start is essential to receiving the care you need. Take the time to gather your thoughts and medical history before sitting with your clinician. The more information you can supply, the better chance your physician has to make the correct diagnosis.

2. Provide your migraine history

Remember, migraine is more than just a severe headache. Be prepared to discuss when your migraines first began, if they have changed over time, where the pain is and what it feels like, and what symptoms precede, accompany, and outlast the head pain. Keeping a diary can help track this information and prepare you for your visit.

3. Bring your medication and medical history

If you have seen other professionals for care, bring medical records, a list of past and current treatments, and the responses to those medications (including vitamins and supplements). If you’ve had scans, bring the actual images, not just the reports. Make sure to discuss other medical conditions and drug allergies you may have.

4. Be open and honest

This is your chance to get the help you need, so be honest and explain how migraine affects your family, social, and professional life. Even infrequent attacks can be disabling, so describing how migraine affects your life helps clinicians choose the best treatment plan for you. Don’t go it alone. Sometimes having a family member or spouse accompany you can help fill in details, take notes, or just offer support.

The American Migraine Foundation has also designed a tool with additional tips to help patients talk with their physician and address migraine head-on.

Download the complete guide at moveagainstmigraine.org.

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