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Provider Profile: Dr. Susan Hutchinson

I wanted to start a new series of articles highlighting headache specialists, who are in high demand, but short supply. There are currently 520 doctors who have gone through additional training to specialize in headache medicine. The majority of them suffer from migraine disease themselves. I want to introduce you to Dr. Susan Hutchinson. She is not your average doctor for many reasons.

  1. She is part of the community, having written several blog posts.
  2. After opening her own family practice, she self-diagnosed her migraine disease. Her entire life she believed she was only dealing with “bad headaches”.  Like the majority of the population, she had little knowledge about the complex signs of migraine, only receiving an average of four hours of training in headache medicine during medical school.
  3. Hutchinson was so passionate about this debilitating disease that she took on extra training in the field of headache and became certified in headache medicine. She left her general practice and opened the Orange County Migraine & Headache Center in Irvine, CA.
  4. Her practice focuses on menstrual and hormonal migraine. Dr. Hutchinson has authored several books on the subject.

Perhaps the most amazing piece of trivia about Dr. Hutchinson is that this year she had a migraine attack the same morning she was to run a half Ironman, also called an Ironman 70.3. She was facing a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run with a migraine or being forced to cancel her participation.  In her younger years, Dr. Hutchinson enjoyed long distance competitions. As a goal for her 60th birthday this year, she had trained for this grueling, hard core race.

She would need all the energy her body could muster to compete and a migraine attack is the last thing she needed. However, she grabbed a triptan out of her purse and in 30 minutes all signs of her migraine had dissipated and she was ready to swim, bike and run. Not only did she finish, she placed first in her age division!

For the majority of us, we get tired just thinking about being able to do a quarter of what Dr. Hutchinson did that day. Exercise can cause or exacerbate migraine attacks for a large portion of patients, whether we have episodic or chronic migraine. She stresses to her patients the importance of using exercise to manage migraine and she practices what she preaches.

As a headache specialist and as a patient, Dr. Hutchinson has some words of wisdom she wants to share. I think we all eventually learn these lessons, but the sooner we can incorporate them into our schedule the sooner we feel more in control. These six tips are important a great reminder as we all think about our New Year resolutions.

  1. Start slow when easing back into exercise. Make small goals. Don’t try to train for an Ironman 70.3 right away!
  2. Tell others of your new goal so that you can be held accountable for exercise and get support.
  3. Aim to exercise 30 minutes a day. You can break it up into three 10-minute segments. Try to get outside as often as you can to exercise.
  4. We all say we don’t have time to start exercising now. Make time to take care of yourself.
  5. Exercise is a great stress reliever. Stress can cause the body to revolt in many different forms. Dr. Hutchinson says that she “leaves her stress at the bottom of the swimming pool.”
  6. Get enough consistent sleep.
  7. Talk about the stressors in your life to others outside the home. Partners and caregivers can get burned out easily.

Dr. Susan Hutchinson is part of the 80% of headache specialists who has migraine disease. These doctors tend to be more caring and understanding than a neurologist or a primary care physician because they understand what you are going through.

To find a certified headache specialist, both of these resources are easy to use:

American Headache Society

Migraine Research Foundation

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.


  • menopausalmigraineur
    2 years ago

    Our local teaching hospital Oregon Health and Science University just managed to get a headache specialist neurologist on staff their to teach and I was told by her that yes the numbers were shockingly low at 1080 headache specialists.

    I agree that exercise has many benefits, but being a chronic migraneur I also hit downsides to it…exposure to light sensitivity, volatile chemicals and the increase in blood pressure. I only recently on Botox had my first 12 hour period in more than 15 or 20 years without a migraine. Still have the nausea and the dizziness and cognitive dissonance and other affects, so as much as I can admire that Dr. Hutchinson may have found what works for her, migraines aren’t solved by single solutions, or at least mine haven’t been. Neither were my sister’s, my daughter’s, my son’s, my mother’s, or my grandfather’s. This kind of blithe post makes me want to grit my teeth and throw my computer at the wall almost as badly as the Excedrin headache commercials make me want to rip the TV out of the wall. And I am sure that Dr. Hutchinson is a much more professional doctor than this post makes her sound.

  • Carl
    2 years ago

    Dr Hutchinson is an incredible person, doctor and leader in migraine. I’m privileged to have met her in person.

    What you said about exercise is so true.

    I’ve had a previous doctor tell me they thought that migraines ran to a clock and an attack sometimes was just inevitable…. unfortunately I believed that until I discovered how amazing exercise has become as a preventative. It’s like hitting the reset button on the brain.

    A good 30 mins of cardio exercise (after building up to it) feels for me like it completely flushes out all the toxic “migrainey” elements. It’s not the full solution- don’t get me wrong- but it’s a key piece of the puzzle.

    Today I’m nowhere near ironman status like Dr Hutchinson, but I’m much better equipped to handle the day after exercise.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    That’s so fantastic. Exercise can be a huge roadblock for many migraine patients. I’m with you, I can’t run an Ironman, but I do exercise as much as possible and it really helps me to feel like I have more control over my body. Of course a bad attack can put me back at square one, but I just gotta keep moving!
    Best wishes!

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