Medically reviewed by Dr. Betty Acker, MD on September 4, 2020
You may not be able to control your migraines, but that doesn’t mean that you’re powerless in the fight against them. In order to properly treat migraines, you and your healthcare provider need to be aware of any patterns in your headaches — and a diary is just the place to start.
Because migraines affect everyone differently, your physician needs to know as much about your specific case as possible. A headache diary allows you to relay the details of your migraines to your doctor after the fact, making it easier for them to develop the best possible treatment for you.
As you start to track your migraines more closely, be sure to keep the following things in mind:
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Mark down every single headache
Understanding frequency is probably the single most important factor when it comes to treating migraines. Big or small, take note of every time a headache strikes. This will help both you and your doctor see any patterns there may be related to when you get headaches and how often.
Having this information is the first step towards finding the right treatment. Say, for example, that you’re experiencing upwards of 5 or 6 distinct headaches every single month. Because traditional migraine abortives can lose efficacy when used repeatedly, a doctor would likely prescribe you an ongoing medication that prevents these migraines instead.
Keep track of length
While the number of migraines you experience is a key piece of data, the length of these headaches can sometimes prove to be just as important. It’s a good idea not only to track the overall number of headaches you experience but also the total number of “headache days” you have — full days when you’re suffering from the effects of your migraines.
Keeping track of just the number of headaches may fail to paint a full picture if each one lasts more than a day. Imagine that you have 3 headaches per month, but each lasts for 4 days — while the overall number of headaches you have is just 3, this belies your relatively high headache days count of 12. In this case, your provider may be able to offer you an abortive that will stop the headache on day 1, keeping your headache number at 3 but lowering your total number of headache days down to 3 as well. In other cases, you may learn that you need a daily preventive medication.
Without knowing how severe your headaches are, your doctor may have a difficult time choosing the right abortive for you. While most doctors will ask you to rate the pain you’re feeling on a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, you should also be keeping track of the nature of the pain as well: is it localized or spread out? Sharp or dull? Is it affecting any of your senses or your ability to think at all?
Different types of pain are indicative of different types of migraines — requiring different treatments on your part. Be as specific as possible when noting how painful these headaches are and what type of pain you’re experiencing so that your doctor has as much to work off of as possible.
Know your triggers
Some peoples’ migraines appear out of nowhere, but others find that certain foods or behaviors can spur headaches on. If you think that there might be some potential triggers you’re unaware of, keep track of any meals you had or activities you participated in in the 24 hours before your headache began — this can help you identify anything that might start your headaches or make them worse.
Record your meds
If you’re taking more than one type of abortive for your migraines, try not to take the same one for every single headache. By tracking which ones you took and what the subsequent results were, you’ll help your doctor know what medications you’re most responsive to.
Whether you need a headache tracker or assistance determining your triggers, we’re here to help. If you’re hoping to take a stand against your migraines once and for all, get in contact with one of our experts here at Nurx who can help find the treatment that’s right for you.