Health Library

Health Library

Get the Right Help for Headaches

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

If headaches disrupt your work, social life, or home life, it's time to make an appointment for a medical evaluation. 

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.” Don't let your concerns be dismissed--it's your well-being and the quality of your life that are at stake. 

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

A "headache diary" can track your headaches in an organized way by including the date and 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.

The American Headache Society offers these other suggestions for obtaining care:

  • Prepare for your visit. Be organized, specific, direct, and ready to talk details.

  • Have reasonable expectations about treatment. Be patient and give treatment time to work. Be flexible and prepared to modify your treatment, as necessary.

  • Be honest about all medications you take and any other medical conditions you have. Tell your doctor about all your current therapies, including prescription, over-the-counter, natural remedies, and illicit drug use. Focus on finding the best treatment options by working with your health care provider to find solutions.

  • Ask for detailed instructions for taking medication, and follow them.

  • Follow up regularly with your health care provider. Seeing your doctor on a regular basis helps you develop a relationship that can improve the treatment process. Schedule a follow-up appointment when you conclude each doctor visit. Make sure the weeks or months between visits will give you enough time to evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment.