Finding a headache specialist can be somewhat difficult. So. How do you know if a neurologist or another doctor is a good headache specialist? Simple. You wouldn't unless you read some basic information about the training and knowledge base of these headache and migraine doctors.
Most are neurologists who sub-specialize in headache. Keep in mind that migraine is the most common complaint presenting in the neurologist's office. This particular branch of medicine is now a board certified sub-specialty. In other words these doctors take very specialised tests in order to treat headache and are considered experts in this area. You wouldn' see a plastic surgeon who wasn't board certified would you? Plastics is a sub-specialty of surgery just like headache is a sub-specialty of neurology.
Occasionally, a pain management specialist will also treat headaches. This does not mean that a doctor who specializes in headaches has to be a neurologist or pain specialist! Several GP's and DO's (doctor of osteopathy) have taken the headache boards.
The famous Dr. Seymour Diamond, who started the first headache clinic in the United States, was a general practitioner who became one of the first migraine doctors..
When you first meet your headache specialist, he or she should spend some time discussing your headache history. How long have you had them, did you have headaches in childhood or during pregnancy? Have you had any head injuries?
They should also inquire into your family history as some headaches are genetic, such as migraine.
Your doctor should also ask about any history of aneurysms or other conditions that could cause headache, like hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and those medical conditions that could cause headaches. Your thyroid, blood pressure and even vitamin deficiencies can all play a role in this condition.
Additionally, there should be some sort of headache form for you to fill out which would also ask you about your lifestyle in relation to headaches. Please also consider the way this person listens to you. Do they interrupt frequently or do they sit and let you talk a bit?
After talking a bit, you should have a neurological exam performed and then you and the provider will discuss what are the best options for you and your headaches.
Everyone is different! This is a concept many patients have difficulty with. Are you thinking: "If a medication worked for your next door neighbor's aunt, then why can't I have it?", you have to realize that the provider will tailor medications to your individual needs.
Keep in mind too, that you have to participate in your own care..patients who do this get better much faster. I can only tell you from over 10 years of experience with this, that those people who refuse to stop smoking, won't exercise, take the attitude of "I'm not taking that pill!" and won't treat anxiety..rarely improve. These are the patients, with few exceptions, that we are seeing year after year. Many tend to have poor coping skills when it comes to stress, as stress is the most common cause of headache.
Here are 10 tips on how to talk to your migraine doctor. To contact some specialists in headaches, here are some links to help you find someone in your area of the country.
If you are outside of the US, please ask your physician to help as they may have connections just by calling other doctors for a reference.
How To Find A Specialist
This link will open a PDF document which lists board certified headache and migraine doctors by state in the US. Headache Specialist by state in the United States.
If you are in the State of New York, we would be happy to see you for a headache consultation at Dent Headache Center. We are located in Amherst, NY which is a suburb of Buffalo, NY.
Here is another headache clinic that I have professional experience with and highly recommend: Michigan Head & Pain Institute
There are more links and information on my resources page. Good luck in your search and remember...you deserve the best treatment so don't put up with any other! You deserve to be treated by a headache specialist.
Here is an extensive list of headache links and resources.