You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may be referred to a headache specialist.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Keep a headache journal, which should include when each headache occurred, how long it lasted, how intense it was, what you were doing immediately before the headache started, and anything else notable about the headache.
- Write down your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes.
- List all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking, including doses and frequency of use. Include medications used previously.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help you remember information.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For chronic headaches, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the likely cause of my headaches?
- Are there other possible causes?
- What tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What's the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there printed materials that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- When did your headaches begin?
- Have your headaches been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your headaches?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your headaches?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your headaches?
What you can do in the meantime
To ease your headache pain until you see your doctor, you might:
March 10, 2015
- Avoid activities that worsen your headaches.
- Try over-the-counter pain-relief medications — such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others). To avoid rebound headaches, don't take these more than three times a week.
- Garza I, et al. Overview of chronic daily headache. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 6, 2015.
- Yancey JR, et al. Chronic daily headache: Diagnosis and management. American Family Physician. 2014;89:642.
- Halker RB, et al. Chronic daily headache: An evidence-based and systematic approach to a challenging problem. Neurology. 2011;76:S37.
- Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- Ahmed F, et al. Chronic daily headaches. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology. 2012;15:S40.
- Headaches and complementary health approaches. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/pain/headachefacts.htm. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.