Finding a Headache Doctor
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is where to find a doctor who knows about headache. There are quite a few resources available if you know where to look.
The National Headache Foundation provides contact information for doctors who have special qualifications in headache management. To be included, doctors have to devote a substantial portion of their practice to headache patients or research, have published an article in a peer-reviewed journal, completed 50 continuing medical education credit hours in headache in the last five years, presented at scientific meetings or published articles on headache, and been involved in teaching lecturing, publication or research in the last seven years.
The NHF can also tell you which organization members practice in your state. You can request this information by calling (888) 643-5552.
The About.com headache page also provides a list of headache specialists. Each doctor mentioned has been recommended by a patient or by a medical professional. The lists are broken down by state alphabetization. For example, the list that’s named New Jersey – Rhode Island includes all the states that fall between those two in the alphabet, not just New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Of course, just because a doctor is on one of this lists doesn’t mean that you’ll like the him or her or be satisfied with the treatment you receive. And you may find a doc who isn’t on any list, but you believe will be the best person to treat your headaches.
Think of your first visit as an interview. Begin by learning what the doc’s treatment philosophies are and what kind of relationships he or she has with patients. These are some important questions to help determine if this doc is the right one for you:
- Will you or your staff take the time to obtain a detailed history of my headache? (This is probably best not asked, but is something to pay attention to)
- Will you or your staff answer my questions about the diagnosis?
- What tests will you do to diagnose the cause of my headaches? How accurate are the tests? How safe are the tests?
- Do you have a plan of treatment if the first two or three recommendations fail?
- Will you follow through with your recommendations until we reach an optimal level of therapy?
- What treatments other than medication do you think may help me? (i.e. acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, diet modification, exercise, etc.)
- Are you willing to work as a team with me and other health care providers, such as practitioners of complementary and alternative therapies, a chronic illness counselor/therapist, and a pain specialist?
- What if I need help after office hours?
- How long have you been treating headache patients?
- Why are you interested in headache? Do you have migraines?