This post is part of our "Headache Specialist 101" series, which we developed to help you understand more about what a Headache Specialist does and what you should expect from the process of diagnosis and treatment. Click here to visit the Headache Specialist 101 Series page to see all the posts in the series and learn more!
All patients who suffer from headache and facial pain disorders deserve the very best care, and that usually means from a headache specialist.
A headache specialist is either board-certified in headache medicine by the United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties or by the National Headache Foundation.
It is a common misconception that neurologists = headache specialists. It is true that headache disorders in general are neurological conditions. It is also true that many headache specialists are neurologists.
However, most neurologists are not headache specialists. It takes special training and experience to be a headache specialist in the same way it takes special training to be an epileptologist (a seizure specialist, which is a subspecialty of neurology) or an endocrinologist (a subspecialty of internal medicine).
We have a tremendous respect for general neurologists who must know a lot about a wide spectrum of neurological diseases. A neurologist is trained on every neurological disorder and treats many different problems all day long, like movement disorders, dementia, headaches, seizures and some very rare disorders. Some of them do rounds on both clinic patients and on hospital patients during the course of a day.
The number one reason for a referral to a neurologist is for the chief complaint of "headache". There is often a 3-6 month wait to see a general neurologist for a headache disorder.
Most of our patients at The Headache Center have seen some other medical professional—a general practitioner, an internal medicine specialist, a general neurologist, pain management, an ENT doctor, and ER provider, an eye doctor and/or a dentist—before they came to see us.
We only treat headache disorders, and we do so without controlled substances that have been proven to worsen the problem, cause more headaches and lead to addiction and death.
As comprehensive headache specialists, we also addresses the comorbidities typically associated with primary and secondary headache disorders like anxiety & depression, sleep disorders, obesity, hypertension, allergies, and many others. And this takes a lot of time. (Get more information on what a headache specialist should be asking every patient in order to achieve optimal care and results.)
We follow migraine-specific treatments or evidence-based treatment guidelines published by the American Headache Society and the American Academy of Neurology, and we avoid prescribing harmful and dangerous narcotics, opioids, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
Our training in headache medicine is extensive and perpetual and far exceeds the training in headache medicine by most neurologists. Many past presidents of the American Headache Society and the National Headache Foundation are NOT neurologists.
Headaches specialists come from many different backgrounds, including internal medicine, family medicine, pain management, emergency medicine, pediatrics, psychologists, basic research scientists, clinical research coordinators, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, dentists, and pharmacists, to name a few.
Headache problems usually stem from a complex medical disorder that requires years of dedicated training, expertise, and compassion.
If a sufferer is not satisfied with their care, they deserve to be seen by a headache specialist and not just the local general neurologist that is in their primary care provider's system.
Get more information on the training of the Founder and Director of The Headache Center, Christina Treppendahl, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, AQH. And see reviews and testimonials from patients treated by the headache specialists at The Headache Center.
- Square One: Headache Education for the Medical Student
- American Academic Headache Specialists in Neurology: Practice Characteristics and Culture
- Medscape: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/508448