Published March 15, 2021 By Adam Lowenstein

Migraines are a frustrating problem for many adults. These persistent headaches can be temporarily debilitating, though treatment options have been relatively limited for some time. You may have only recently discovered that there is such a thing as a migraine specialist. Historically, chronic, severe headaches have been managed by primary care physicians and neurologists. So how do you know when and if your headaches qualify for a special type of examination and treatment? We’ll discuss that here.

Are Your Headaches Migraines?

There are three common types of headaches, each of which may become severe enough to warrant medical treatment. These include:

  • Tension headaches. This type of pain usually affects both sides of the head. Tension headaches often start slow and gradually build to dull or moderate pain. They are believed to correlate to stress and muscle tension. However, environment and genetics can also contribute to this type of headache.
  • Cluster headaches. This pain usually occurs on one side and may focus behind one eye. Cluster headaches occur suddenly and occur in a series. They are considered the most severe of the three types of headaches but are, fortunately, also the least common. They may be triggered by bright lights, heat, tobacco, or alcohol and occur in groups up to multiple times a day.
  • Migraine headaches involve intense pain and other symptoms, including light or sound sensitivity and nausea or vomiting. This type of headache can persist for hours or days. There is evidence that migraines tend to run in families.

When to Schedule a Consultation with a Specialist

Chronic headaches do not often indicate a potentially serious underlying problem. They are usually straightforward. The time to see a doctor is when headaches interrupt your life. Schedule a consultation when:

  • You are taking headache medication frequently. If you take headache medication more than 5 times a month, you could benefit from a comprehensive consultation and examination from a migraine specialist. Some studies suggest that too much headache medication could have a rebound effect, resulting in more pain, not less.
  • Your daily routine is affected. Headaches need not be debilitating to severely diminish your enjoyment of life. If head pain forces you to retreat to a dark room or lie down, it could be time to see a specialist.
  • Your primary care doctor or neurologist is stumped. Migraine headaches can be confusing, even for doctors. A primary care physician may refer you to a neurologist for further tests. If the neurologist fails to conclusively determine how to manage your comfort, that does not mean your case is unsolvable; it means you may need to see a migraine specialist.

Types of Migraine Specialists

There are two different types of migraine specialists- medical and surgical.  While most medical headache specialists are neurologists, there are also pain specialists and other types of medical doctors who specialize in the medical care of migraines.
A surgical headache specialist, like Dr. Lowenstein,  may be harder to find in your area because their specialty is so specific.  Surgical migraine specialists use short, outpatient operations to decompress the nerves that cause headaches, with a 90% success rate.  To learn more, contact our Los Angeles area migraine specialty center at 805.969.9004.

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