Whether you’ve just had your first migraine attack ever or have been battling chronic migraine for decades, it’s time to begin migraine tracking.
Tracking is a migraine management essential, and in this article I’ll share:
- Why tracking is so important
- How to keep a migraine log
- What you can learn from it
- & more!
Let’s get started!
Why tracking migraine is essential
Keeping a migraine log is my top-priority advice for every person with migraine, but why is it so important?
Communication with your physician
Many headache specialists and neurologists will require you to have documentation about your migraine attack pattern.
Having information about the symptoms, frequency, and severity of your attacks can help your physician reach a diagnosis and discover treatment options that’ll best support you.
Learn your patterns
No more surprises! Documenting your attack pattern helps you discover trends.
Tracking migraine is all about gathering information. You may discover your attacks always start a certain time of day, reliably occur after a certain trigger (like a strong smell), or have consistent “early warning signs” (like frequent yawning).
Determine whether you’re on the right path
When we start a new treatment plan, we obviously want to make sure it’s actually helpful. The most effective way to do this is to keep track of how your migraine patterns change over time.
Most medications and treatments are recommended to be given a 3-month trial period. Having information about your migraine pattern prior to the new treatment to compare with your migraine pattern 3 months in can give you extremely useful information.
How to keep a migraine log
There are several options to choose from to keep track of your migraine attacks.
The #1 free app for migraine tracking is Migraine Buddy. It is easy to use, customizable, and has super valuable “reports” so you don’t need to sift through all of the information you track on your own.
Whether you’re not tech-savvy or need more flexibility in migraine tracking, utilizing a print-out template can be helpful. This method assures you’re documenting everything you need to without being bound by the restraints of apps like Migraine Buddy.
If you need even more flexibility, you could keep an open-ended journal. You may not be keeping track of all of the information, but any tracking is better than none. I’ve recommended some beginners to just start noting their attacks on the iPhone “notes” app.
What to include in migraine log
- When the attack begins and ends
- Possible triggers
- Prodrome and aura symptoms
- Pain intensity
- Attack symptoms
- Whether you missed work, school, or social time
- Reliefs or medications attempted (and whether they alleviate symptoms
How to build habit of tracking
If you’re anything like me, beginning to keep a migraine log can be a difficult habit to build. I’ve struggled with tracking for a couple reasons…
- With chronic migraine, you could be having symptoms literally every day. It gets difficult to determine where attacks begin, end, or what separates one attack from the next.
- Creating a habit like this can be very challenging, especially in the context of your busy life with frequent pain.
- Keeping track of everything you need can be very overwhelming if you aren’t used to it or don’t really know which information is valuable.
So how can we fight these barriers and build the habit?
Have a daily check-in
Sometimes (even when you are a diligent tracker like myself) it’s easy to get lost in the noise and neglect to document a migraine attack.
Ideally, we want to log our attacks as soon as they occur to make sure we get the most accurate information. But tracking later is better than never.
At the end of each day, make a point to ask yourself if there is anything that you still need to document. Then head to your migraine log and do your best.
Even if you’re having difficulty building this particular habit, there are surely other routines you’re following every single day. Consider your routines to see where you can “slide in” migraine tracking.
Maybe taking medication to treat an attack can be a sign for you to pull out the migraine log (you could even store your paper tracking template or journal next to your medications!).
Perhaps you end each day with a cup of tea or washing your face. This can also be a reminder to check your migraine log to make sure it’s up to date.
If you’re feeling discouraged, take a step back! Some tracking is better than no tracking at all. Simply keeping a calendar with a checkmark on your symptomatic days gives you some information about your migraine, providing you with many of the benefits of tracking.
Tracking migraine attacks is essential for every person battling migraine. No matter where you are in your journey with migraine, an attack log will help you to communicate with your physician, learn your typical patterns, and determine whether you’re on the right path.
Building the habit of migraine tracking can be challenging, but using strategies like daily check-ins or habit stacking can break through barriers.
There are many different types of migraine logs you can use, including phone apps, print-out templates, and journaling. Your log should include information about your possible triggers, symptoms, and relief attempts.
To leave out the guess-work, I’ve created a free downloadable print-out migraine tracking template. Download it below!