Seeing a Board Certified Headache Specialist

See a headache specialist, preferably someone certified in headache management by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties. I give people with migraine this advice all the time. It’s a convenient shortcut to assess a doctor’s qualifications. A UCNS certification indicates that a doctor has undergone extensive training in headache medicine. With so many charlatans claiming specialties in migraine and headache disorders, it’s helpful to have any way to assess a doctor’s experience and knowledge.

There’s something I rarely tack on to that sentence, but it’s a caveat echoes that in my mind: you may not like the doctor even if he or she has board certification. Book knowledge does not equal good bedside manner.

“What every sick person really needs is a doctor or health care provider who will enthusiastically engage in sorting through that person’s problems: Someone who will look up what they aren’t sure of, who has the time and the interest to double back on a diagnosis that doesn’t seem right, and who will rethink a treatment that isn’t working…. If your doctor is hurried, distracted, indifferent, or just plain exhausted, his or her board certification probably isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”1 (The KevinMD article that this is excerpted from focuses on internal medicine, but the writer’s main premise applies to any specialty.)

I absolutely agree. Yet I will continue to recommend UNCS-certified headache specialists above others. Too many physicians (and chiropractors and naturopaths and dieticians…) claim knowledge of and experience with headache disorders that they do not possess. People with migraine often get such substandard care that by the time they see a headache specialist, they’re usually in desperate need of a doctor with as much education as possible.

Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that certification is not a guarantee you’ll be satisfied with the care. Personality differences and expectations, busyness, and lack of compassion can all be issues, no matter how qualified the doctor is. And plenty of doctors provide excellent care for migraine without being board certified. Finding a good fit for you personally—a doctor with whom you feel you can work comfortably—is critical for ensuring the best treatment possible, no matter if they have a certification or not.

 

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