Headaches often take us by surprise. Was it the third cup of coffee? Or this morning's run? Wait, maybe it was last night's bottle of wine — who knows. If you get frequent headaches and want to pin down a cause, a headache diary can help you get ahead of your next episode. Image by richmooremi.
Similar to how keeping a food diary makes you more aware of your eating behaviours and food choices, a headache diary can help you be more mindful of the things that might be hurting your head. In benign cases, you could just be predisposed to headaches, stressed, dehydrated, highly caffeinated or bothered by something on your environment (bright lights or strong smells, for example). In other cases, they could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue like a food intolerance.
When you keep a headache diary, you'll have something to show your doctor to explain why they happen, and they will have ammo to help treat you. You'll want to include details like:
- When your headache started and stopped.
- Time and day of the week.
- Location of the pain.
- Intensity of the pain (rated on a scale of 1-10).
- Activities and surrounding circumstances.
- The last meal you ate around the time your headache started.
- Steps you took to relieve your headache.
To get started, use the template from Harvard Health Publications (linked below) or this one from the US National Headache Foundation. For the techies out there, there are the free iHeadache or Migraine Buddy (click here for Android) apps too.
Keeping a headache diary [Harvard Health Publications]