Munson Health
Diagnosis of Headache

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by Wood D
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. The cause of a headache can be difficult to determine. The doctor will ask about the frequency and pattern of your headaches. To help provide answers, keep a diary of:
  • When your headaches start and end
  • What you were doing at the time
  • What you did to try to relieve pain and how effective the treatment was
  • Family members with the same condition
  • Triggers that you are aware of
  • Where the pain is located and where it spreads to
  • Other symptoms associated with the pain
Tests to determine the cause of headaches include:
Often, tests are done to rule out causes of your headaches.


Guidelines for All Doctors in the Diagnosis and Management of Migraine and Tension-Type Headache. 2nd ed. London, UK: British Association for the Study of Headache (BASH); 2004.

Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: Accessed November 7, 2012.

International classification of headache disorders. Cephalalgia. 2004;24:1-160.

International classification of headache disorders. Cephalalgia. 2005;25:460-465.

May A. A review of diagnostic and functional imaging in headache. J Headache Pain. 2006;7:174-184.

NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated September 2012. Accessed November 7, 2012.

Sahai-Srivastava S, Desai P, et al. Analysis of headache management in a busy emergency room in the United States. Headache. 2008;48:931-938.


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