When You Disagree with Your Neurologist
Last updated: April 2023
I don’t like confrontation.
Honestly, I’ve avoided having “crucial conversations” in all areas of my life. I want everyone to get along. I never want to offend, challenge, or hurt anyone’s feelings.
While this may have served me in some areas of life and situations, it certainly has not supported me in being the advocate that I need to be for my health. As uncomfortable as they may be, there is a time and place for crucial conversations when it comes to your health.
What do we know about migraine that doctors don't?
If you disagree with your neurologist, it’s important that you have an effective and open conversation. Of course, as patients, we can feel like we can’t disagree because they’re trained medical experts. What do we know if we don’t have a medical degree?
You know one very important component that your neurologist doesn’t know – what it’s like to live in your body. Only you can fully and adequately speak to this essential component of the discussion, so if the recommendations of your neurologist don’t align with your beliefs and goals for your health, it may be time for a crucial conversation.
Let’s talk about what this could look like and how to best navigate it.
How can the conversation be collaborative?
My goal is to take a collaborative approach with all my doctors. I go to them for their medical training and clinical expertise, and I come to the table as the expert on living in my body. Creating your migraine management plan should feel like a joint effort, a collaboration. When I think of collaboration, it feels better than a confrontation.
How do I prepare for my appointments?
I want to partner with my neurologist in creating the plan that will best serve me in reaching my optional health. After all, we should both have that same goal. To effectively collaborate with your neurologist, it’s helpful to come prepared with your questions, suggestions, or intentions thought out in advance.
The week leading up to my appointment, I typically start jotting down notes for my appointment. It helps me feel like my thoughts are best organized for an effective discussion.
Is our conversation or the topic personal?
When I’m in the appointment, I remind myself that this conversation isn’t personal – as much as it may feel like it is. The topic is personal – MY health – but our conversation should be viewed more as a planning session towards our common goal than who is “right” or “wrong.”
How do I respectfully disagree?
It’s okay to ask questions or even challenge your doctor on a recommendation if you disagree with it. But, again, try to approach it from a collaborative tone than a confrontation. I may use phrases like, “I have some concerns about (that medication, test, treatment, etc.)” versus “I’m not doing/taking that.”
One approach opens the door for further conversation, and the other could come off as combative and sets the stage for unproductive tension. Focus and speak to facts and your personal experience, intentions, and goals.
What's the reasoning behind the recommendations?
Of course, let’s not forget that we need to be open to the reasoning behind their recommendations. I’ve certainly been in situations where I didn’t like the doctor’s recommendation. After I asked questions and gave myself time after the appointment to process it, I realized that my doctor did have the best approach.
Collaboration goes both ways.
What do you do when it’s not working?
Of course, if you reach a point where you don’t feel like your voice is being heard or you’re not getting the collaboration from your neurologist that you’re seeking, you do have the ability to seek out another neurologist. Start exploring other doctors in the practice or recommendations of a different practice.
Finding the right neurologist to partner with in your healing journey can take some time, but it is time well spent. It is your health and your quality of life. You deserve someone who wants to partner with you on this journey.
Do you have a migraine toolbox for when an attack hits?
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