A headache diary is a tool which leads to fewer migraines, more comfort, and more freedom. You hold the keys to identifying what triggers your migraines. You can use your migraine diary independently or with the help of your health care provider to identify what causes your migraines. Make sure to share the information with your healthcare provider for additional insight.
All severe headaches, including migraines and cluster headaches are caused by a wide array of migraine triggers. What triggers your particular set of migraines is different than what provokes headaches in other migraine sufferers. In fact – while some migraine causes (or triggers) are common, your triggers can change from day to day or week to week. A migraine diary will help pinpoint your particular symptoms, triggers, and other factors so that you can take steps to reduce the frequency of migraine days. You can use your headache diary to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment.
How does a Headache Diary Help?
Migraines and cluster headaches (also known as histamine headaches) inflict pain on you when a combination of triggers is present. Want an example describing how a headache diary can help you determine what migraine causes you have, or what triggers are causing your headaches to inflict their wrath on your daily life? Tracking these triggers will help you make different (and perhaps healthier decisions).
This really simple example shows some interesting patterns in the headache diary, already.
One can quickly deduce a few interesting data points here:
- Taking Imitrex appears to work for this particular individual. It’s an expensive treatment, but if it stops the pain, they won’t care.
- Bananas are present in both headache diary entries. Are they a culprit to causing migraines or cluster headaches to come on?
- Caffeine (a soda and a coffee) are present in both entries. Caffeine can be both a treatment and a trigger for migraines.
- Migraine pain seems to start around lunch. There’s no sleep data recorded, but there may be some correlation with sleep patterns or eating patterns.
Based on this data, you could choose a few items to reduce your migraine frequency:
- Stop eating bananas
- Stop consuming caffeine
- Get more sleep, or try eating sooner in the day (lack of food can cause headaches as well)
By getting some more entries in the diary, you may be able to test / re-test some of your theories, until you find out what works.
Other data points that you might want to record would be:
- Weather patterns, including hot / cold of the day, as well as the precipitation and atmospheric pressure
- Sleep patterns
- Medication and vitamin intake
Effective Treatment with a Headache Diary
Keeping a migraine diary allows you to determine whether treatment is effective. It’s useful if you are starting a new medication or trying other interventions, such as a stress reduction program. If you determine, via your diary, that the treatment is effective, then you can decide to continue using it. If it’s not working, then you may decide to try something different. The diary will also help your healthcare practitioner fine tune medication doses. Documenting your headache triggers is much more precise than relying on your memory.
How do I Start Using a Headache Diary?
There are many migraine diaries available, and your health care provider may recommend a particular one. The important thing is to choose a format which is simple and portable. The more information provided, the better ; however it’s better to keep a simple diary that you will actually use than a detailed one which is burdensome. Most people like diaries that have a simple checklist with minimal written entries. Use your diary throughout the day, not just before bed, if possible.
Some of the diaries we recommend are listed below …
What Information is Found in a Headache Diary?
This can vary depending upon what you are trying to learn about your headaches. A migraine diary is kept every day, not just when migraines are present. Remember, you don’t have to mold yourself to fit the diary. The diary is a tool which you can modify to meet your individual needs. Here are some common types of information that are included in migraine diaries:
- Presence or absence of a migraine
- Characteristics of a migraine- symptoms, pain level, location, presence of other symptoms
- When migraine occurs & how long it lasts
- What helps to relieve the symptoms
- Medication and other treatments used that day
- Environmental information such as weather, temperature, pressure
- Activities that you performed on the date
- Stressors or lack of stress
- Sleep/ exercise
- Menstrual cycle for females
We highly recommend keeping a headache diary. The use of a headache diary or migraine diary will allow you to track down the triggers, and reduce your headache frequency and severity.