the headache series
Daily Headache Diary
A headache diary can be an extremely useful tool in unravelling the multiple factors that could be contributing to your head pain. It is very unusual for an individual to experience only one kind of headache, and a mild tension headache can easily be exacerbated into a debilitating migraine because of food sensitivities, postural habits, sleep patterns, bite discrepancies, stress, and other factors. Taking the time to evaluate how your headaches might relate to your daily routine can be a revelation for many people. Sometimes, making the smallest changes in your habits can create profound relief – or even complete elimination – of regular headache pain.
The headache diary presented here covers aspects of all the topics discussed in the Headache Series and is designed to help you identify the potential lifestyle triggers that regularly cause your headache pain. By noting when you have a headache each day, and paying attention to all the things you did leading up to that headache, you can begin to discover trigger patterns that may exist related to posture, hydration, clenching and grinding habits, and more.
This headache diary is an excellent tool to use for self-discovery, but it can also be extremely useful when shared with a qualified healthcare provider. Food allergies, hormonal imbalances, sleep disorders, medication reactions, and bite issues can all trigger headaches and should be addressed with the help of an appropriate medical or dental specialist.
Daily Headache Diary Instructions
Here’s how to start using the headache diary and understanding the information you’ve gathered:
- Fill out the full Headache Diary form once a day for one to two weeks. If you suspect that your headaches are related to monthly hormonal cycles, you may want to extend this exercise through a full menstrual cycle.
- Once you have gathered at least a week’s worth of forms, look closely at the days when you had headaches and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there any noticeable patterns to your headaches? (same time of day, only on workdays, always after a workout or sitting at a computer, etc.)
- Do you eat or drink something similar, or are you skipping meals, on all the days you have headaches?
- What is your sleep like the day before you get a headache?
- Are you drinking enough water on the days you have headaches?
Once you begin to suspect a particular habit or condition might be a trigger for you, go back and re-read The Headache Series article on that subject and see if there are any changes you might try to make in your routine that could help. For example, if you notice that you always have a headache at the end of your workday and that you did not take very many breaks from your computer, consider looking at the posture section to see if adjustments in the way you sit might be helpful. Also, increase the number of times you get up and walk around when you are working at a desk for long hours. Consider setting a timer on your computer or phone to help remind you to do this at least once per hour.
If hormones, medications, bite issues, or a potential sleep disorder seem like a contributing factor, make an appointment with a qualified medical or dental provider who has experience treating these conditions, and bring your headache diary with you. Sometimes a doctor or dentist can see patterns or concerns that may not be readily apparent to you when presented with this kind of information. Discuss your suspicions about your potential triggers with your provider and show them the information you’ve gathered on the Headache Diary forms. Your provider may ask you to continue to track your headaches to gather even more information for treatment, or make a referral to an appropriate specialist for further evaluation.
NOTE: Do not attempt to alter prescription medication dosages, make drastic changes to your diet, treat hormone imbalances, or correct bite issues on your own. Always work with a qualified medical or dental provider if you suspect any of these areas might be a contributing factor to your headache pain.
Understanding how lifestyle factors contribute to chronic pain is a huge component of healing. Even if you have an underlying physical cause for your headaches, you are also likely experiencing exacerbations in pain intensity and frequency simply based on the habits of your everyday life. Pain is a message from your body that something needs to change. If you listen carefully and address what that pain might be telling you about your daily habits, actions, and choices, healing is almost always faster and longer-lasting.