Recording details of your headaches can help you recognise triggers, patterns and warning signs, assess whether treatments are working for you and improve communication with your doctor by giving a more accurate description of your symptoms. This can be done by keeping a paper diary, or more recently with the use of migraine and headache apps on mobile phones.
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How to describe your headaches
The following are examples of details you may want to record about your headaches and migraines.
- Where is the pain? such as on one side or both, behind the eye(s), forehead
- How severe are they? (on a scale of 1 to 10; read more about describing your pain)
- What do they feel like? such as vice-like, stabbing, throbbing, splitting
- How long do they last? (minutes, hours or days)
- How often do they occur? (daily, monthly, only on weekends or weekdays)
- When do they occur? (on waking, in the afternoon)
- When did they begin? (childhood, adolescence, middle age)
- What triggers them? isuch as some foods, alcohol, caffeine, exertion, noise, bright light, hunger, stress, tiredness, weather
- What else do you feel? such as neck or shoulder tension, sinus pain, tender scalp
- Is your vision affected? such as blind spots, strange lights or patterns
- What treatment did you take
- How effective is the treatment (or isn’t).
The following references relate to articles about apps for headaches and migraines:
- Hundert AS, Huguet A, McGrath PJ, et al. Commercially Available Mobile Phone Headache Diary Apps: A Systematic Review. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2014 Aug 19;2(3):e36.
- Mosadeghi-Nik M, Askari MS, Fatehi F. Mobile health (mHealth) for headache disorders: A review of the evidence base. J Telemed Telecare. 2016 Dec;22(8):472-477.
- Huguet A, Stinson J, Mackay B et al. Bringing psychosocial support to headache sufferers using information and communication technology: lessons learned from asking potential users what they want. Pain Res Manag. 2014 Jan-Feb;19(1):e1-8.