Have you been keeping track of your migraines with a headache diary or app? You should be. Here’s why.
When you visit a doctor or migraine specialist, one of the first questions they’ll ask is about patterns in your attacks. When do they occur? Have you noticed any potential triggers? Perhaps your migraines are related to light sensitivity, stress, diet, or even weather changes. But the only way to identify your unique triggers — and there may be more than one — is to keep a detailed headache diary of when your migraines occur and what circumstances surround each attack.
This may seem a little bit like homework to you, but documenting your migraines in a headache diary or app can be extremely enlightening when it comes to prevention. Nailing down identifiable causes — or triggers — is the best known way for your migraine specialist or doctor to diagnose you and recommend treatment options. This can result in fewer attacks; the goal of every migraine sufferer.
There’s an App for That
Most of us have our smart phones on us pretty much all the time. So if you’re looking for the most convenient headache diary, try using an app. Enlisting migraineurs to use and help us review them, we’ve identified what we believe are the top 5 migraine tracking apps.
And for our volunteers, the apps have proven useful. According to one, “[It is] extremely helpful so I can provide my neurologist concrete data and we can see mathematically what treatments are working. Also, I can tell my boss, ‘hey this is what I am dealing with.’”
At Everyday Health, an online communication platform for healthcare providers and consumers, we read that keeping a headache diary is the only way most people can track their attacks. If you aren’t tracking your onset, pain, warning signs, and symptoms, a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is difficult to come by. And not only does your journal or app provide a method for analyzing what might be causing your migraines, it can also help determine how you are responding to treatments, so your plan can be further refined for the best results.
Adults and Kids Should Use These Tools
When it comes to migraines, kids can also reap the benefits of keeping a headache diary. Both children and their parents should keep records of how the kids are feeling, so that at each doctor’s visit, they can both submit their perspectives on the pain, duration, and frequency of attacks, as well as what could be triggering them.
Start Journaling Now
The sooner you can start keeping a detailed headache diary, the better. You can download an app and begin using it within minutes, enabling more effective treatment and prevention. The more information you can provide about when and why your migraines might hit, the sooner the right treatment plan — involving lifestyle modifications and / or medications — can be designed for you.
As if better treatments and fewer migraines weren’t enough, keeping a headache diary — especially in app form — can provide a detailed record of your condition, helping you qualify for disability and other benefits. If your migraines are causing you to miss work regularly, or render you unable to keep up with daily activities, you may be entitled to financial assistance that your records can help verify.
You can journal your migraines by any method you wish, such as in a notebook or computer document. However, mobile apps provide the best accessibility and convenience, along with some features you might not realize you need. Our top 5 mobile app recommendations are listed here. Whatever headache diary method you decide to use, make sure yours is readily accessible anywhere, so you can document everything as it occurs.
What Information Should I Include?
The following information will be helpful in verifying the patterns in your attacks. In real time with your experience or at least very soon after the attack, make a headache diary entry that includes:
- Date and time of headache
- Location of pain
- Duration of pain
- Pain intensity (scale from 1 to 10)
- What you were doing at the time of pain onset
- How much sleep you’ve had
- How much water you’ve consumed
- What you’ve eaten throughout the day
- Warning signs, such as auras or light sensitivity
- How much exercise you’ve gotten
- Weather conditions
Female migraine sufferers should also note where they are in their menstrual cycle, as this can be a factor for many.
When creating a journal entry, be as detailed and accurate as possible. You should also document your experience with any type of medication you’re taking, so you know what makes a difference and what is less helpful. Depending on how often you experience migraines, you and your doctor can use your headache diary to decide how often you should document how you’re feeling between attacks (daily, weekly, or monthly).
A headache diary is the best way to identify triggers so that as many as possible can be avoided. Once you begin to recognize your migraine patterns and analyze your progress, you and your doctor can develop the most effective treatment plan possible.