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5 Guidelines for Questioning Your Doctors About Migraine Treatments

In the chronic illness community we talk a lot about how to be empowered patients who work as partners with our health care providers to make the very best decisions about our care and treatments. One of the hardest, yet most important, aspects of being an empowered patient relates to your interaction with your doctors. Specifically, being willing to question them about their recommendations.

The doctor patient relationship is an intimidating one for most patients. We are raised to treat doctors as authority figures and defer to their judgment. Clearly they deserve our respect and courtesy, just as we deserve theirs. They have education and experience we as lay people cannot ever replicate. However, if we are too quick to defer to their opinons and don’t voice our concerns, we can find ourselves agreeing to treatments and procedures we don’t feel comfortable trying. If we’re lucky, we can rectify that situation once we realize we’re not comfortable. If we’re not, we may suffer side effects and a lot of regret. I know I’ve certainly been there, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.

With these priorities in mind, I’d like to suggest five guidelines you can follow to assert yourself as a partner in your health care without being disrespectful of your doctors.

1. Ask for time to make a decision.

If your doctor suggestions a treatment or procedure that you don’t know much about, ask for some time to make a decision about whether it’s right for you. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into deciding that day or, even worse, undergoing a procedure on the spot that you’ve never heard about or researched before.

2. Always arm yourself with a set of questions to ask about any potential treatment, medication or procedure.

Regardless of the specific treatment your doctor is proposing, by keeping a list of these questions in your wallet or smart phone, you can be prepared at a moment’s notice to get the information you’ll need to make an educated choice. Always make sure you write down the answers for future reference, too.

– What does this treatment/medication do?

– What are the side effects and risks? How likely am I to experience them?

– Why do you think it will be helpful for me and my situation?

– How many of your patients have tried this? What were their experiences?

– Do I need to modify my behavior while experiencing this treatment or taking this medication?

– How long will it be before I notice any difference in my symptoms?

3. Reserve the right to seek a second opinion.

4. Don’t tolerate a doctor who is dismissive of your concerns.

If you find yourself in a relationship with a doctor who is rude when you ask questions, dismissive of your concerns or disrespectful when you ask for time to think an option over, find a new doctor. A good doctor will not feel threatened that you are an empowered patient. To the contrary, he or she will appreciate working with an engaged, educated patient who cares enough about his or her health to be an active partner in making treatment decisions.

5. Don’t decide not to start or quit a medication or treatment without discussing it with your doctor first.

Patient noncompliance with prescriptions is a huge issue in medicine. I think the main reason is because people have unaddressed concerns about taking the medication in the first place. Don’t make this mistake! If you get home with a prescription or treatment plan and start to have doubts or concerns, call your doctor. Be open about your worries and get them addressed rather than just throwing away the prescription or filling it and never taking it. Believe me when I say your doctor would rather answer your questions than have you come back and tell him or her you never even tried the medication even though you left him or her with the impression you would.

Do you find it difficult to question your doctors? What is hard about it for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • lucylou
    8 months ago

    Thank you for a great article, I have had good and bad experiences with Drs. I have been made to feel like a criminal for having migraines and my feelings dismissed by some. I was “pushed” into Botox despite my doubts and fears and ended up with a 4 month NIGHTMARE! Mad at myself and Dr. for this…I also lose my thoughts when I am in the office of a cold Dr…..have had migraines for 60+ yrs. and know what works and doesn’t for me which is why I will wait quite awhile before “trying” any CGRP….

  • Frosti
    11 months ago

    My thoughts are if you are concerned about discussing your thoughts, fears or concerns with your doctor, then you need to find a new doctor. There are plenty of doctors out there that are very willing to work with the patient to find the best solution to their issues. I never find it difficult to ask questions or raise concerns about any issue with my doctor(s) – if they are too rushed or dissmissive, then I will find a doctor that will and does listen. Of course my attitude may stem from working in the medical field with doctors. Just like in any field, there are good ones and bad ones. We as patients should not be afraid to move on to another doctor if one cannot or will not meet our needs.

  • Theresa
    12 months ago

    I started seeing a PA as my primary. I only saw her for allergies, mammograms, basic stuff.
    I became ill due to my allergies. Went in and tried to tell her what the plan had been in the past. She said I’m not going to do that. If you don’t like what I’m doing you can see someone else. Three weeks later, still sick.
    I go to urgent care and lo and behold, I get her husband. Needless to say he did give me a cortisone shot, but the whole time he felt like he had to protect his wife.
    I’m not going back to her or him. They were disrespectful and didn’t listen to me.
    The husband said, doctors don’t like to be told what to do.
    Guess what, I have been alive longer than they have been alive. I know about this suit I wear called my body. I will not be treated like this and I am going to report them to their company.
    Go to

  • nancynawn
    7 years ago

    I have been in this situation with respect to Botox at one of the biggest headache centers in the northeast. I was very concerned about getting the procedure because of the numerous side effects I read about, not to mention I am a needle phobe. My neurologist answered my questions but he was almost exasperated that I would even question Botox as a treatment. They ran it thru my insurance for approval before I even agreed to the procedure. Within 6 months I agreed to do Botox as part of a ‘deal’ with my neuro. He would start tapering me off my preventative meds (I was going crazy from the side effects) but only if I agreed to do Botox. The day of my Botox treatment I brought my fiance for support because I was so scared. He was extremely rude & wouldn’t let him stay in the office with me. He didn’t give me any instructions for after the procedure that day. I kept wondering why my forehead was ‘t freezing & learned that it takes 3-5 days from I also learned other important info like don’t lie down or rub your forehead for 4 hours, none of which he told me. So yes, I agree if you’re asking questions and you’re doctor makes you feel like an imbecile, go find another practitioner. That’s what I’m doing.

  • Elaine Gross
    7 years ago

    Ditto here. I seem to get “brain fog” once I take a seat in the doctor’s office. I don’t know why. He’s very personable. Maybe because he’s this “big neurologist”? I say anything and everything to my GP. She’s great! Maybe because she’s a she, and he’s a he? I don’t know. Anyway, my husband would go in with me because of my “brain fog”, but I think the doctor thought he was being pushy and was unresponsive to him to put it politely. So, my husband refuses to go in with me now, but had a good suggestion for me to write things down in my IPad and take it to my appointment, which I did last week and it worked great! The doctor heard me! Because I was able to articulate my concerns & experiences, with the help of my notes on my IPad.

  • janenez
    7 years ago

    Suggestion #2 is fabulous. I can’t tell you how many times over the last 30 years I wish I had asked those questions. Sometimes with the stress of getting to the doctor, taking off work, bright lights in the examination room, bad traffic on the way – whatever it is – my good intentions of being an “empowered patient” go down the drain. Another thing I plan to try is to take my husband or sister with me to the appointment and ask them to take notes for me. Maybe they might have a question that I can’t think of at the moment – or they can remind me of something I missed. I’m thinking of spending some time with my husband before we go in to the appointment so he is completely aware of my problem and goals for the visit. Ever since a bad course of a preventative medication that messed up my memory – I really feel its time for me to be accompanied by someone I trust. Maybe we can discuss afterwards the pros and cons of any recommendation and that way they have heard it directly instead of just what I remember. I used to think having someone accompany me to the doctor wouldn’t happen until I was at least 70 – but now I’m beginning to think its a good idea. Thanks for a great post!

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    Talking out a game plan with your husband or sister before an appointment is an awesome idea!

    I’m definitely in favor of bringing a loved one with you for the reasons you mentioned. It can be helpful on so many levels.

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