Visiting a doctor for a sprained ankle or a broken hand is usually pretty straightforward because a medical professional can clearly see what’s causing the pain. Because of that, he or she can lead the dialogue with the patient when it comes to treatment. But talking to a doctor about migraine is a completely different story altogether, and I learned that the hard way.
When I was a college athlete, I was in great physical shape, and didn’t fit the “profile” of what a person with migraine looks like. That put me behind the 8-ball at the start of my initial visit with my doctor, and it didn’t help that I was completely unprepared during the visit. Here were some of my answers to his questions.
“It just hurts like a really bad headache.”
“I’m not sure how often it happens.”
“Maybe it’s just something I ate or maybe I’m overexerting myself.”
Now I realize that there are better ways to go about talking to a doctor about migraine and here are three quick tips:
#1 – Take charge.
This isn’t the time to be a passenger. Instead of waiting for the doctor to ask the questions, be prepared to lead the conversation by knowing the answer to these questions before you even walk in the door:
How many migraine attacks do you have in a given month?
What is the total time that the migraine attacks last? Including initial symptoms beforehand and the “hangover” afterwards.
Is there any activity or food that sets it off?
How often do you take medication to alleviate the pain?
Outside of medication, what do you do to get relief?
Knowing these answers helped me get a better understanding of the impact of migraine. When I visited another doctor about my condition, I was more prepared to talk about my experience and was able to have a much more productive conversation. In hindsight, I realize that I would’ve had a much better experience if I took charge from the jump.
#2 – Go into personal detail.
Describing the pain, duration, and symptoms of a migraine attack to a doctor is one thing, but do you know how to describe how it really affects your life?
Did you miss out on your daughter’s holiday performance because of a migraine? Did migraine affect you during a big moment in your career? Have you routinely wondered if today would be the day that the “big migraine” would come and completely wipe out your day? All of those things happened to me. Share those stories with your doctor.
It’s difficult to talk about how migraine affects your personal life because it can be viewed as whining or complaining – especially when it comes to an invisible disease. But that’s even more of a reason to paint a vibrant picture for your doctor, so he or she can see the direct impact it has on your life and help you manage it.
#3 – Realize nobody is a better expert on you than you.
Unleash your inner expert and take pride in the fact that you know yourself better than anyone. Doctors are amazing at their jobs, but they need your help in order to help you. Ask follow-up questions if you’re unsure about a doctor’s directives, talk confidently about your symptoms, and don’t apologize for your condition. It will go a long way towards getting the assistance you need during a doctor’s visit.
To see the day-to-day impact migraine is having on your life, answer a few questions in the link below. In approximately two minutes you’ll have information you can share with your doctor, family and friends.
Doyin R. is a real migraine patient. He has been compensated for his time.