Chapter 4, Episode 3: Your First Headache Visit: What to Expect


This content has been medically reviewed by Andrea D. Murphy, MSN, APRN, ANP-BC, NEA-BC, AQH

Are you wondering what to expect at the first visit with a headache specialist, neurologist or primary care provider about your headaches? Depending on presenting symptoms and the healthcare provider, an initial visit with a clinician about headaches may vary and each person may have a slightly different experience. Overall, we will give you a few tips and a general idea of what to expect for your first visit..

You’ll start by completing the patient registration and medical history forms, like you would with any other new health care provider. You may be able to complete some of these online before your appointment, but we recommend you bring your records, notes and questions with you to the appointment, as well.

Typically, your healthcare provider will begin the first appointment by reviewing your past and current medical and surgical history as well as your family and social history.  

They will ask about your head pain including what it feels like, the intensity, onset, location, duration, time of day the headaches occur, frequency, triggers, associated symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, light or sound sensitivity and more.

Keeping a log of your headaches in a diary or app prior to the appointment is extremely helpful to get an accurate diagnosis as well as insurance coverage for certain treatments. 

A healthcare provider will also want to know all of the current and previous medications you’ve tried for your headaches including the dose, side effects and/or the reason you stopped the medication.  

If you have previous imaging records of your head or neck from another doctor, they will also want to see the results.

Your healthcare provider will also ask you about the impact of migraine on your daily activities such as work, school, basic life responsibilities and social events. This includes not being able to function at your full capacity or take part in these activities. The answers to these questions help the specialist document the severity and disability associated with your condition.

Your healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam. That exam may vary based on presenting symptoms but can include vital signs, a neurological exam, a look into your eyes with an ophthalmoscope, and a manual exam of head/neck area. Additional tests may be needed including blood work or imaging using a CT scan or an MRI based on symptoms.

The healthcare provider may recommend treatment options. They may prescribe acute medications which are taken at the onset of symptoms, or preventive medications which are taken routinely to reduce the frequency and intensity of the headache disorder. It may take a few visits and several trials with different treatments to find a regimen that works best for you. 

We hope your first appointment with your healthcare provider is the beginning of a partnership that helps you find the best possible treatments and more freedom from the pain and burden of migraine disease.

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This video is sponsored in part by Lundbeck.

*The contents of this video are intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. AMD does not recommend or endorse any treatment, products, or procedures mentioned. Reliance on any information provided by this content is solely at your own risk.