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How Are Migraine Specialists Different?

If your doctor isn’t able to help you with your Migraines and/or headaches, seeing a Migraine and headache specialist may well be your best option.

On the surface, that may seem like a simple enough statement, but it raises a couple of questions that should be addressed:

  1. What kind of doctor is a Migraine and headache specialist?
  2. What makes a Migraine and headache specialist different from other doctors?

Let’s take a look at each of those questions…

What kind of doctor is a Migraine and headache specialist?

Since Migraine is a neurological disease, it would seem logical that neurologists would be Migraine and headache specialists. The reality is, however, that neurologists aren’t necessarily Migraine and headache specialists, and Migraine and headache specialists aren’t necessarily neurologists. Stop and think about it. Neurologists can be said to be the “GPs of all things neurological.” They treat a multitude of neurological disease, conditions, and injuries. Migraine and headache are only one small part of all of that. How could they truly be Migraine and headache specialists?

With proper training and experience, any type of physician can become a Migraine and headache specialist. Yes, the majority of Migraine and headache specialists (approximately 80%) are neurologists, but some of our best specialists aren’t. They originally trained in internal medicine, family practice, psychiatry, or other medical fields.

What makes a Migraine and headache specialist different from other doctors?

There are several ways in which Migraine and headache specialists are different from other doctors. They…

  • are genuinely interested in Migraine and other headache disorders and in the patients who have them.
  • are dedicated to helping patients with headache disorders, and they don’t give up on a patient unless the patient gives up.
  • listen to their patients.
  • respect their patients and work with us as treatment partners, making decisions with us rather than for us.
  • belong to organizations such as the American Headache Society and the National Headache foundation, attend their conferences for continuing education opportunities, and network with other members.
  • read journals, books, and other materials, and participate in other activities to keep their skills in and knowledge of the field current.
  • tend to focus their practice on patients with Migraine and other headache disorders.
  • aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know,” or, “I don’t know what to try next,” then help us find someone who does.
  • may have, in addition to their residency, have elected to complete a subspecialty fellowship in headache medicine.
  • may have elected to sit for the exam to receive a subspecialty certification in Headache Medicine from the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties.

From my personal experience and from the experiences others have shared with me, I highly recommend seeing a Migraine and headache specialist if you and your doctor(s) are having difficulty treating and managing your Migraines or headaches. At one time, I thought all neurologists were Migraine specialists. I’ve lost track of how many neurologists I saw seeking help for my chronic Migraines. Teaming up with a Migraine specialist made all the difference for me, and we began making progress within the first six months of treatment.

I’ll tell you up-front that there can be a couple of logistical issues:

  • There aren’t enough qualified specialists, so there may not be one located very close to your home.
  • Insurance companies have become so difficult to deal with that some specialists no longer accept insurance plans.

Yes, those issues can be problematic, and I’ve had to deal with both of them. When I first needed a specialist, there were none in my state. My husband and I took two days and traveled eight hours, each direction, to Philadelphia several times a year for several years so I could see a specialist. There were multiple issues with our insurance company, and there were times when we just had to pay for my care as well as the hotel room and other travel expenses. It wasn’t easy. We had to cut corners in our budget in other places. But, it was worth every hour, every mile, every inconvenience because that specialist knew what he was talking about, cared, and helped me get my life back.

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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.


  • LillieLynne
    5 years ago

    I need help finding a migraine specialists who specializes in MARD< ( Migraine Anxiety Related dizziness) and MV Migraine Vertigo. I am in the Charlotte NC area. The neuro practice I go to does not have a doctor that sees how they are interconnected. Although there have been extensive research and it has been given a name. Disability wants to deny because they ay you do not have vestibular vertigo. No, I dont but that does not mean that I am not constantly dizzy and have severe attacks of vertigo w intense migraines. Many doctors solutions are to send you to psych for anxiety, then you are not covered. Its the anxiety over the pain and the loss of feeling in limbs or the slow cognitive thoughts or the non ability to leave the house, the onset of dizziness from just being around a small group of people who move. I cant re balance. I can not process noise, its so intense it triggers seizures. So I stay in a dark still quiet house.I read an article on a specialist in teh greensboro area of NC who specializes in Migraines and has written research on MARD and MV does anyone know who he is?

  • Katie Robinson
    8 years ago

    For about 20 I was seen by a neurologist. I had migraine with stroke like symptoms, plus experience loss of cognitive function. I requested to be put on a migraine preventative. Earlier this week I finally was seen by a neurologist whose specialty is headaches. I was diagnosed as having hemiplegic migraines. The topamax that I was taking for prevention could have caused a stroke and impairs cognitive function. The triptan/imitrex that I had been taking at onset of headache is counterindicated for my type of migraine! My old neurologist had not done any tests other than a standard ct and mri of my brain; and ultrasound the vessels in my neck. The bloodwork checked cbc, liver and kidney function. Everyone please keep shopping for a good-reputable specialist who will provide you with a diagnosis and check it against webmd/mayoclinic or some other reputatable medical website for correctness. I was too trusting….I have lost more than 6 months of cognitive function and thousands of dollars in lost wages due to my misplaced trust.

  • Judy
    6 years ago

    I am desperate! How do I find a good specialist? Other than taking my insurance, I’d take take Greyhound, train, or drive maybe hitch hike to get there. I’d consider sleeping on the street if I must. Please give me some recommendations!

  • Teri-Robert author
    8 years ago

    You’re welcome, Puppet! Let’s be sure to talk after you see your new specialist.

  • Annie
    8 years ago

    Thank you for your constant messages and the variety of ways you go about telling us to go see a Migraine specialist. I look forward to teaming up with my new Migraine specialist at the beginning of next year and toward any progress we can make together.

  • Staci Gardner Carey
    8 years ago

    Recently saw Dr. Mazials in Asheville, NC who claims to be a Migraine Specialist through Park Ridge Family Practice and he had no interest in seeing me unless I switched to “meds he deemed” appropriate for migraines through his protocol. He instructed me I was on the wrong “Triptan” even though I had tried his Triptan medicine of choice and it did not work for me. Also it should be noted that while I sat in his waiting room three (3) drug reps came in and made appointments to take him to breakfast and lunch. I heard the receptionist make these appointments and this Doctor is in fact booked for Breakfast and Lunch all the way through to Christmas of this year. A Migraine Specialist should never limit a patient to specific drugs or medicinal protocols, this much I know.

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