This post is part of our "Key Questions" series, which we developed to help you understand more about what questions a Headache Specialist should ask during the process of diagnosis and treatment. Click here to visit the Key Questions Series page to see all the posts in the series and learn more!
Your medical professional should address the following questions and concerns regarding your headache symptoms:
If you had no medication to take, how long do your worst headaches typically last? Minutes, hours, days? A week? How many days in between headache episodes can you go completely pain free? Do your mild headaches and severe headaches last the same duration? Does the duration vary depending on when you treat a headache or on the time of day it begins? Do you treat every headache you have within the first 30 minutes of the pain? Or do you wait it out? Do you wait till it gets very bad before you treat a headache? When you take your current attack meds, are you always pain free and symptom free (nausea, photophobia, phonophobia, autonomic features) within 2 hours.
How many days in an average week or month do you have headaches? How often do you have a severe headache? What about the other headaches? What about the mild head days or the days of headache you don't treat with medication? How many different types of headaches do you experience? Do you have the same associated symptoms and the same severity with every headache? If your headaches last days, how many days are you completely pain free in the head, neck and face?
Where does is hurt? Is it in the front or back of the head? Can you pin point the pain? One side or both? Is it all over? Does it move? In your neck? Does your neck get stiff? Does your neck hurt in between headaches? Is your headache in the same place every single time? Is it behind one or both eyes? Is it in the temples?
What do the headaches feel like? Are they pounding or throbbing? Does it feel like a heart beat in your head? Do they feel sharp or dull? Stabbing or aching? Boring like a hot poker through your eye? Pressure? Steady or intermittent pain?
On the pain scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being no pain and 10 feels like someone is cutting off your arm, how bad do your worst headaches get? How bad does it get if you had no medication to take? What about your other headaches? Do you have milder headaches that don't bother you or that you don't treat? What is your pain level on a daily basis? Do you have some hours out of the day with no pain in the head, face and neck without attack medication on board? Are your headaches ever disabling? Require bed rest? Avoidance of activity? Missed work, school, chores, family functions, social events? Severe enough to go the emergency department or urgent care for treatment?
Do you experience aura symptoms? Visual disturbances preceding the headache or during the headache? Can you describe them? Is it just blurry vision or trouble concentrating? Flashing lights? How long does the aura last? What about numbness in your hand or face? Trouble speaking or garbled speech?
Are you experiencing any of the following other symptoms along with your migraine or headache pain?
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to Noise or Sound
- Sensitivity to Smells/Odors
- Nasal congestion/runny nose
- Sinus pressure or fullness/Congestion
- Tearing or watery eyes/eyelid drooping or redness
- Double vision
- Fainting/Loss of consciousness
- Neck pain/stiffness
- Temporal mandibular joint pain
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Fatigue preceding the headache
- Slowed rate of thinking/Confusion
- Paralysis/motor weakness or immobility