It is commonly known among doctors that migraine headaches can often have no discernible trigger. Some may come on in conjunction with a woman’s menstrual cycle, while some may be caused by certain foods or beverages. Because migraines can be so difficult to diagnose and treat, it is often helpful for a patient to track their headaches using a migraine diary.
There are many different formats for tracking migraines, but there are some key pieces of information that need to be included to allow physicians to more effectively treat the pain. Migraine diaries are only as effective as the information the patient records for their doctor. A migraine diary should have a specific structure that combines being easy to make entries with being easily read by both the patient and their doctor.
Diaries should be structured in a format similar to a spreadsheet so the information can be entered quickly across the page of the diary. The first information that should be entered is the day of the week and the date. The next piece of information that should be entered is the level of pain, or discomfort, the patient is feeling. As migraines are still a mystery in how they work and what brings them on, it is not commonly known a patient can experience all of the symptoms of a migraine except pain and still be suffering a migraine headache. Records of the level of a patient’s general discomfort are often recognizable to a doctor, where they are not immediately recognized by the patient.
Two short columns following the day/date and discomfort/pain level should be an indicator of where the patient is feeling pain in the head. Migraines can be both unilateral, one side of the head, or bilateral, both sides of the head. A simple F/B for example, for front or back, in one of the two columns will tell the doctor if the pain is in the front/right, front/left, back/right or back/left of the head.
The next section should be larger and allow enough room to record any specific associated symptoms that accompany the headache. This can include any tingling, numbness or discomfort in other parts of the body that occur in conjunction with the headache. The following four short columns should be used with a header at the top of each column indicating regularly used painkillers. The section following the medication columns can be used to note if any other medications, such as anti-emetics or antacids, that were taken.
The next column can be used for the patient to note what they believe may have triggered the migraine headache. Most migraine triggers are a guess at best, but this section can be used to note what was eaten, drank or activity that was done just prior to the onset of the migraine. Because many women suffer from migraines in conjunction with their menstrual cycle, there should be a column in the diary to track what day of their menstrual cycle the patient is in. If there is any additional room on the page, or can be included in the general notes of symptoms, the patient may also want to record any information they can regarding the weather. Changes in barometric pressure are sometimes thought to trigger sinus, tension and migraine headaches.
A diary that records migraine symptoms and possible triggers can be invaluable for a physician and can allow more effective treatments to be prescribed or recommended for the patient. There are many online sites that have templates for migraine diaries, or the patient can use simple accounting paper that is available at any office supply location. Both the templates and the accounting paper are already lined into columns for the patient, so their information can be easily tracked and recorded.