Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. However, you may be referred to a neurologist, a doctor trained in treating brain and nervous system disorders, such as headache.

Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot to talk about, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, as well as what to expect from your doctor.

Keep a headache diary

One of the most helpful things you can do is keep a headache diary. Each time you get a headache, jot down these details that may help your doctor diagnose your particular kind of headache and discover possible headache triggers.

  • Date. Charting the date and time of each headache can help you recognize patterns.
  • Duration. How long did your headache last?
  • Intensity. Rate your headache pain on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe.
  • Triggers. List possible triggers that may have caused your headache, such as certain foods, sounds, odors, physical activity or oversleeping.
  • Symptoms. Did you experience any preceding symptoms?
  • Medications. What medications have you taken? List any, including dosages, even if they're unrelated to your headache.
  • Relief. Have you experienced any pain relief, from complete pain relief to none?

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions may help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For cluster headaches, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? What will these tests rule out?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What treatments are available? Which do you recommend?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Do I need to see a specialist?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • What are common side effects to the medications you're prescribing?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor will likely ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on later. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Do your symptoms tend to occur at the same time of day? Do they occur during the same season each year?
  • Does alcohol appear to cause your symptoms?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
Jun. 04, 2013