Hiring the Right Doctor

You’ve probably heard that if you have migraine, the best kind of doctor is a headache specialist. You’ve probably also heard that there aren’t very many of them, you’ll probably have to travel to see one, and the wait time for a first appointment can take months. Given those odds, you’re probably feeling pretty grateful if you even get a chance to meet one. So you might be surprised when I tell you that not just any old headache specialist is right for you.

You hire your doctor

They all have their own traits, quirks, and biases. Some of them are even jerks. Headache specialists are no different. Some of them you will like, some you will love, and some you won’t be able to work with at all. That’s why it’s so important to remember that you are the one hiring the doctor.

What should you look for?

Treat the process of finding a doctor just as you would if you were hiring someone for an important job. After all, helping you manage migraine is very important. The right doctor must be someone that you can work with, who will listen and understand your goals for treatment. Sure, the right one must have the competency to understand headache medicine. More importantly, though, your new doctor must be someone with whom you enjoy working.

Write two lists

Think about what you want in a headache doctor. Prioritize the list and separate those non-negotiable items from the qualities that are mere preferences. Everyone’s list will be a little different because we’re all different. Make a list of interview questions you would like answered during that first appointment. The doctor’s willingness to discuss your questions will tell you a lot.

Are you willing to compromise?

None of us get everything on our “wish lists” all the time. So remember to keep an open mind. Trade-offs may be necessary in order to get most of what you want. If you go in demanding your way on everything, you won’t be off to a very good start. Because doctors are human, they are vulnerable to the same emotions as anyone else.

Can you learn something from them?

Their expertise is the very reason you need a headache specialist in the first place. Be willing to learn from your doctor just as he or she is learning from you. Headache doctors have a lot of training that can help you if you are willing to try.

Are you willing to walk away?

Despite the years of training and experience, not every headache specialist will be a good fit. There is nothing wrong with admitting this. Perhaps the personality differences are simply too great. Maybe the doctor lacks the necessary expertise to really address your concerns. In any case, it helps if you talk to the doctor about your concerns before leaving. Some differences can be worked around. Ultimately it is your decision to hire experts for your migraine team.

When should you move on?

Even when you know that it’s time to move on, be smart. Begin looking for a new doctor while you are still working with the current one. When you have settled on a few potential candidates, request your medical records and start making those initial appointments. Avoid breaking ties with your current doctor before finalizing a new relationship. Otherwise, you may find yourself without treatment or an emergency “safety net” while waiting for that next appointment. Breaks in treatment can set back effective migraine management for months.

Be active in your migraine care

Choosing the right doctor is just one part of effective migraine management. A patient who is actively involved in his or her own care has better outcomes. For migraine, that means keeping a journal, avoiding known triggers, complying with treatment recommendations, and engaging in good lifestyle modifications such as exercise, stress management, sleep hygiene, adequate hydration, and healthy nutrition.

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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 Migraine.com 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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