Ever come away from your headache doctor thinking "what the?" Where everything sounded like Klingon, or feeling like s/he didn't hear a word you said?
Here are THE questions you need to ask and some great tips to be more prepared for your next appointment. Stop wasting time and money.
I want to stress how important it is to become your own best adviser as you navigate the road to pain relief and reclaim your life.
Don’t settle for breakthrough pain or give up too early like I did.
Seek treatment from a specialized headache doctor to get the right diagnosis. Once you know what you have, you can treat it more effectively.
If you are assigned a doctor you just don't like or relate to, ask to be referred on to someone who has a special interest in migraines.
I have one doctor I can't seem to relate to at all. She does speak Klingon, and has told me I am a hard case for her, but I have had some amazing results in the past six months so I don't really care about the missing "bedside manners" anymore.
Knowledge and the specialized training is better than someone being nice for me right now. But I have a nice doctor too, who I trust.
Your health care team might look like this (this is mine):
I realize that not all countries have the opportunity to doctor hunt, but if you can, find one who you trust and is open to experiment with you and treating your migraines.
Dr. Bruce Campbell, who specializes in CFIDS (chronic fatigue syndrome) stresses how important it is to develop a partnership with your doctor.
He highlights the importance of making your ongoing relationship with your doctor a productive one.
His article suggests using "P.A.R.T." from the book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions.
They say that to get the most from your doctor visits you should "Prepare, be active, repeat, and take action."
Prepare - write down a list of your questions or problems.
Be Active - succinctly state your concerns and what you want from the doctor. Something like “I’m here today because I am just getting too much breakthrough pain.” Or “I’m concerned because …”
Be active by asking the right questions. Get clear about diagnosis, ask what can be learned from the test they just selected for you. Ask about treatment options and follow-up visits.
Dr. Campbell says to ask about both medical and behavioural treatment options and to inquire about risks and benefits of each. This is something I never ask. I just go along with what they say. Never doubting.
Repeat – repeat back to the doctor the key points to make sure you understand it all correctly.
Take Action – At the end of the appointment make sure you completely understand what you have to do next. This is your time to ask the right questions.
It is important to ask your headache doctor questions at the end of your appointment if you feel unclear on their directions or don't understand what you need to do.
I know this sounds simple, but I have discovered it is not.
Sometimes what you ask, is not what gets answered.
The best email I ever received in this arena was from Lottie Ryan. She has a chronic illness blog that is amazingly uplifting. She presented these two questions that have changed the way I look at doctors and doctor appointments. Her link is below.
Somewhere along the line I forgot doctors were human too.
"Is there anything else you can do to help me right now?"
"Is there anything else you think I can do to help myself?"
When I read these I could not believe I had never asked these two questions after an appointment.
I normally feel confused and overwhelmed, so these are perfect to help me reflect.
I noticed when I did ask these questions it gave the doctor some extra time to think. As Lottie said "It’s surprising how often this prompts a doctor to think out of the box and dig around their brains for ideas and solutions."
The other thing to do is to reflect back what they have told you to do.
So, have I got this straight? You want me to increase this dose and then reduce that one?
I realize these may sound simple as you are already doing everything humanly possible ... but try them and let me know how it went in Facebook below.
What did you notice the doctor doing differently when you paused and asked the questions?
Did you take a few minutes to reflect back what they said? How did that feel?
The other good question my psychologist suggested is:
"If you were me, what would you do?"
This is a good one when you feel overwhelmed with choices. Choices that all sound .... well not what you are wanting.
I used this recently with the pain specialist when he suggested Botox injections, surgery, nerve blocks, and more surgery.
If anything, asking a few questions for them to ponder can give you some time to catch your breath.
This post migraine doctor has 10 tips to prepare for seeing your headache doctor. Important things like writing down questions before each appointment and make sure you also write down the answers.
Keep a record of medications you try that don't work to show each new specialist along the way.
There are quite a few pain killers, abortive drugs and prophylactics for your headache doctor to trial with you. Trust me when I say it will pay to keep a list in case it takes some time.
Click on this link to print out the medication tracker form I use to keep track of my medications.
Ask your migraine specialist to write out an emergency care plan out in advance. And/or get your doctor to help you fill in this treatment strategy for acute, rescue and preventive treatment instructions.
I harp on about this throughout the whole website. Making small changes in your lifestyle may pay off big time when it comes to reducing the number of migraine attacks you get and maybe even the intensity of them too.
Exercise, relaxation, medications, meditation .... are all good. But you have to take responsibility for fitting them into your day and changing your routine.
If you already do all of that, and still get loads of attacks, then maybe it's time to look at other things.
Here is a more detailed list on migraine headache new treatment plan to assist you with more ideas for lifestyle changes and inspiration to keep trying.
And I am hoping to build this list together for a global directory, so send in your link(s) I am missing for your country:
What are some of your best tips that you use when seeing your MD?
Did you try the new questions above? If so, what happened?
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Headache Doctor Resources:
1. Best email ever from Lottie Ryan: five tips for getting the most help from your doctor appointments.
2. Campbell, Bruce CFIDS Develop a partnership with your doctor.
Perfecting Your Headache Doctor Partnership