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Do Our Doctors Influence Our Treatment Decisions?

Migraine isn’t a disease whose burden can be carried alone. At times, that burden can be managed by medications, alternative therapies, self-care, and trigger avoidance. Our treatment decisions carry a large portion of that load. Most of the time, the path we lay in choosing treatments is done with the help of a doctor, whether it’s a primary care physician, neurologist, headache specialist, or someone else entirely. The question is, how much of a role do they play in influencing those decisions? The Editorial Team at asked our advocates just that.

A healthy patient-provider partnership

For many of our advocates, there's an equal partnership or a trusting relationship between them and their provider.

An open dialogue about treatments

For Nancy, “[My provider is] very open and willing to discuss a wide range of treatment and complementary therapies. The doctor I'm currently working with is well versed in migraine disease treatment options and listens when I bring up new things I want to make sure she is aware of.”

For Tom, “I feel that my doctor has influenced my treatment plan quite a bit. The reason, I believe, is that she allows my feedback and ideas about treatment to be factored into my plan. We have a good relationship, and that means a lot!”

Trusted expertise

For Peggy, “I am lucky to be seeing a headache specialist that has participated in speaking events. Therefore I already thought it would be a good fit with our personalities and her clinical knowledge. I respect her and trust her expertise.”

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For Kerrie, “My current headache specialist is a leading researcher, and I know that he understands treatments and their side effects inside and out. He steers me away from treatments that have side effects that could exacerbate existing issues (like brain fog or fatigue).”

For Katie, “I actually have 2 headache specialists (one on each side of the country) that consult and work together to treat my 9-year intractable chronic phase. Both headache centers have suggested novel treatments that are not "mainstream" in treating migraine. Their suggestions and subsequent treatment plans have made a positive impact on my health.”

Sawyer’s provider has been “extremely helpful, [I’ve] just had a string of bad luck with my rescue meds.”

An understanding provider

For Tonilyn, “My doctor is the one that brings the best options to the table...It took time for me to find a doctor that listened to how my individual symptoms presented and understood how my migraines worked. This understanding allows my doctor to create a treatment plan that's best suited to my particular needs. It also allows a trust to flourish and keep us moving forward and trying new and better treatments.”

For Kelly, “Because hemiplegic migraines can be so serious and have so many side effects, I knew how important it would be that I take my questions to a Neurologist who was able to distinguish my symptoms and figure out my eventual diagnosis of HM.”

Making our own treatment decisions

Some advocates expressed that they're the ones leading the charge in their treatments. Is it a question of us choosing to be the captain of our healthcare decisions or a provider who just isn’t doing what we need them to?

A provider who isn't doing what we need

For Amanda O., “Unfortunately, my current healthcare provider has not influenced my treatment plan enough. I was well regulated with preventative and breakthrough medication but experienced a 6-day migraine ending with IV treatment in the ER in October. My neurologist would not offer any suggestions or any appointments during that time. Since then, I am waiting to get in to see a headache specialist in her same practice and have been using the online migraine telehealth service Cove.”

For Cheryl, “In the 80's I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist for my migraines, so I was taught relaxation, medication, and behavioral therapies to deal with migraine. My primary care prescribed Midrin. So I honestly found my own treatment plan through trial and error.”

Choosing to lead treatment decisions

For Shoshana, “I think I know more than [my provider]. Every time I visit, he asks me what I want to do next. In fairness, though, I have tried pretty much everything!”

For Amanda W., “I can honestly say the healthcare professional that I currently see for my migraines has not influenced my treatment plan. I have dealt with chronic migraine since 2009...At this point, I do much of my own research into new medications. I let my doctor know when I come across a treatment that I am interested in trying. Unlike many of the specialists I have worked with over the years, it does not bother my doctor when I bring up a treatment option.”

Positive and negative experiences

Anna’s experiences have shown both sides. “I was seeing a headache specialist for 9 years prior, and it was not a good fit. He would get frustrated with me if I had severe side effects or a medication wasn't effective. He also believed, 'Since you have migraine, all your headaches are migraines' although I had a very different symptom set. By switching to the neurologist I have now, he is a great doctor. He sits and listens to me and wants to partner with me to find solutions that work.”

How much of a role does your doctor play in your treatment decisions? Share in the comments below!

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.

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