Finding a doctor you like is hard enough. The additional requirement that the provider be is well-educated and up-to-date on headache seems unattainable.
Instead of immediately narrowing the pool to well-known headache specialists or clinics, consider looking for a doctor who is dedicated to treating headache, no matter what his or her medical specialty is. With a wider selection, you’re much more likely to find a doctor that you connect with. And will be saved the hassle of having to travel far from home or wait six months for your first appointment or both.
A good resource for finding such providers is the National Headache Foundation’s list of headache management-certified docs. According to the NHF, these are the requirements to get the certificate:
“…[T]he physician must have a practice which involves a substantial case load related to headache research or patient management, must have published an article in a peer reviewed journal, have completed 50 Continuing Medical Education credit hours in the area of headache in the past five years, presented at scientific meetings or published articles and been involved in teaching, lecturing, publication or research in the past seven years.”
If you don’t have luck with the list, ask around. Don’t know anyone to ask? Keep your ears open. People mention headache and migraine a lot more than it seems like they would — a coworker, neighbor or barista may give you a terrific lead. If there’s an active support group in your area, go! The folks in the group are an amazing resource. Asking on an online forum might help, but there’s a good chance that members who live close to you won’t see your post.
Other resources include member lists from the NHF (call (888) 643-5552) and ACHE, as well as About’s headache section. The list is comprehensive and well-managed. To be included in the directory, doctors have to be recommended either by other doctors or by patients. The source of the recommendation — doctor or patient — is noted.
I found one doctor by looking in the Yellow Pages for neurologists with ads that listed headache as one of their interests. She was a great doctor and I loved working with her, but her knowledge of headache was basic. She was still willing to treat my headaches aggressively.
With any of these sources, you should do your own research. When you call to schedule your first appointment, it’s a good idea to ask if that doctor sees a lot of headache patients. If the answer is no, you may want to follow another lead. Some other questions to ask at your appointment will help narrow down the field even more.