"Neurologist" and "Headache Specialist" are not the same
It is a common misconception that neurologists = headache specialists, and it is true that headache disorders in general are neurological conditions. In fact, many headache specialists are neurologists. But the two are actually separate titles and areas of specialty, and when it comes to treatment of Headache Disorders it can often be an important distinction to make.
WHAT IS A NEUROLOGIST?
We have a tremendous respect for general neurologists, who must have a large breadth of knowledge about a wide spectrum of neurological diseases. A neurologist is trained on every neurological disorder and treats a wide variety of concerns—such as movement disorders, dementia, seizures and some very rare disorders—in addition to headaches. Some neurologists do rounds on both clinic patients and on hospital patients during the course of a day.
However, most neurologists are not headache specialists and do not have added training in headache medicine. (See linked sources below from the American Headache Society.) A general neurologist that does not specialize in headache medicine may not have the training and up-to-date knowledge to offer the best care for headache patients.
Additionally, they may not have the time: the number one reason for a referral to a neurologist is for the chief complaint of "headache," and there is often a 3-6 month wait to see a general neurologist for a headache disorder.
WHAT IS A HEADACHE SPECIALIST?
All patients who suffer from headache and facial pain disorders deserve the very best care, and that usually means from a Headache Specialist.
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). A Headache Specialist is board-certified in headache medicine by either the United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties or by the National Headache Foundation.
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.
Our training in headache medicine is extensive and ongoing, 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.
WHAT DOES A HEADACHE SPECIALIST DO?
As Headache Specialists, we only treat Headache Disorders.
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.
We also addresses the comorbidities typically associated with primary and secondary Headache Disorders, such as anxiety & depression, sleep disorders, obesity, hypertension, allergies, and many others.
CAN A HEADACHE SPECIALIST HELP ME?
50% of all Headache Disorder patients are misdiagnosed.
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. They end up at The Headache Center because no other medical professional has been able to help them.
Headache problems usually stem from a complex medical disorder that requires years of dedicated training, expertise, and compassion. If you are not satisfied with your care, you deserve to be seen by a headache specialist. Do not give up hope!
Get more information by reading about the training of The Headache Center Founder and Director, Christina Treppendahl, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, AQH.
Visit our Reviews and Real Client Stories pages to hear honest 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/50844