Get the right help for headaches

POSTED: 2:02 PM Dec 18 2012   UPDATED: 11:08 AM Jan 04 2013

By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters

Most people who suffer from headaches tell their doctors about their pain only as an afterthought. And 31 percent have never seen a health care provider for their condition, according to the National Headache Foundation (NHF). The result is a lot of needless suffering.

“Headaches are a neurobiological disease and are treatable,” says Seymour Diamond, M.D., founder of the NHF and a headache specialist in Chicago. “If you’re experiencing headache pain that affects your work, home, and social life, make an appointment with your doctor to specifically address your headache problem.”

When seeking treatment for headaches, start with your primary care provider. Discuss his or her experience and approach to headaches, including diagnosis and treatment.

Ask for a referral to a headache clinic or specialist if your provider dismisses or minimizes your headache pain. You may hear something like, “The headache is probably due to stress at the office,” or “Women get a lot of headaches, and it’s probably just hormones.”

You should also consider a specialist if your provider immediately suggests a pain medication without first trying to determine what's causing your headaches.

“Proper care for headaches requires a doctor who’s experienced in treating them,” says Dr. Diamond. “As a patient, you need a continuum of care that entails more than someone writing you a prescription and telling you to return in a month.”

Dr. Diamond suggests you keep a headache diary. Use the diary to track your headaches in an organized way by including the date/time, length, severity, symptoms, and triggers. Make note of what medication you took and how effective it was at alleviating the symptoms. Take the diary to all your doctor appointments.

Other suggestions for obtaining care: