Telemedicine for Headaches: Relief Through Virtual Care

In the past, most people experiencing acute or chronic headache symptoms would make an appointment with their doctor to receive needed care. In cases where symptoms were particularly severe, patients may have even gone to urgent care. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, seeing a doctor for non-emergent reasons has become much more challenging. Many practices closed their doors temporarily to stop the spread of the viruses, leaving countless patients in pain. Even as the restrictions begin to lift, many people are still hesitant to visit the doctor in person while the threat of the virus remains.

Fortunately, another option is now available for patients who cannot visit their doctor or would rather avoid exposure. Thanks to advancements in the field of telemedicine, patients struggling with migraines or other headache symptoms can receive much-needed care in a safe environment.

How it Works

If a patient chooses to seek treatment through a telemedicine service, they will usually begin by setting up an account and answering questions about insurance coverage, payment and medical needs. Some physicians may utilize a specific telemedicine service that the patient would need to sign up for. Once the initial setup is done and an appointment is scheduled, the patient will be able to connect with a qualified physician who can perform an examination over the phone or by video chat.

For someone with a headache, the video or phone appointment will usually consist of a neurological exam. The doctor may also ask specific questions about symptoms, medical history or any other factor that could impact the diagnosis or treatment. After the doctor has collected all of the necessary information, they will typically make recommendations. Depending on the situation, the doctor may recommend at-home treatment measures or an appointment with a specialist. The doctor may also provide a prescription for pain relief.

What it Means for Migraine Patients

Patients with migraines, as well as patients with other types of symptoms or conditions, can benefit greatly from the availability of telemedicine. Some of the advantages of telemedicine for patients include:

  • Convenience – Telemedicine allows patients to get the treatment they need at whatever time is convenient for them and in the comfort of their own home.
  • Safety – Patients can attend virtual care appointments safely when interacting with others is unsafe, such as in the pandemic.
  • Expedited care – In many cases, patients will be able to get a telemedicine appointment much more quickly than they would if they were to see a doctor in person.
  • Privacy– Many people dislike the idea of going to the doctor in person because they feel exposed. Virtual care appointments offer patients a level of privacy that cannot be duplicated in traditional care.

Making the Most of Your Telemedicine Visit

As expected, telemedicine visits are not the same as seeing a doctor in person. However, there are steps you can take to make your visit smoother and more productive. Some tips for improving your telemedicine visit include:

  • Take your own vitals. – At a traditional doctor’s appointment, a nurse or medical assistant would usually check your vital signs. You can improve the quality of your telemedicine appointment by completing this step yourself. Take your temperature using an at-home thermometer and be prepared to give your height and weight. If possible, check your heart rate and blood pressure with a cuff as well.
  • Prepare a list of your medications. – Most telemedicine doctors will want to know what medications you are already taking. Prepare a list of medications in advance and be ready to tell your doctor about any allergies you may have.
  • Write down questions you have. – If you have specific questions for your doctor about your symptoms or the treatment you hope to receive, write them down so you will remember to ask.
  • Go to a quiet place free from distractions. – Talking to a medical professional over video can be difficult, but it is even more challenging if distractions are present. Attend your appointment virtually from a quiet room where you can focus on interacting with the provider.

Telemedicine may not be right for every patient, but it can be extremely helpful for many people with migraines or other headaches. To aid in the fight against migraines, consider making a donation to The Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation.