A Migraine Diary: The Lazy Way

There has been some controversy over whether or not it’s wise to keep a migraine diary.  Part of it has to do with the whole idea of the diary, and part of it has to do with how it’s done.

A migraine diary, or a headache diary, is all about tracking your symptoms versus your treatments and triggers (what sets off a migraine attack).  The idea is that migraine symptoms are often very subjective – it’s easy to forget what symptoms you had when, and how bad they were.  Keeping track on paper will give you a better idea what treatments are working over time.  It may also help you find things that are making your attacks worse – weather, foods, hormonal cycles, etc.

Some have argued that a diary isn’t helpful enough to be worthwhile.  All you’re doing is focusing more on your symptoms, which could make things worse instead of better.

I disagree.  I think there are just too many benefits to be gained from a migraine diary.  And even if you don’t keep one all the time, it’s very important when you’re trying a new treatment, or making changes to your lifestyle.  It’s the closest thing you’ll have to an objective measure,and your doctor will find it useful as well as she advises you on your next treatment.

But – it’s too much work!

I do agree about one thing – sometimes it’s just too much work!  I don’t want to spend all my time thinking about migraine, I don’t know about you.  That’s why I developed the migraine diary that I use – because I want to keep a diary the lazy way.

The idea of this diary, actually, is that you can make it as simple or detailed as you want.  But here’s the basics – you enter a number out of 10 for your discomfort (3x a day, but you could do 1x), and if you have head pain you scribble on the next squares where the pain is.  Then you can write down whatever details you want.  Taking a medication – same every day?  Write it once and then just a slash down the page for every day.

At times you will want to be more detailed.  You may have very different headaches and migraine attacks – you’ll want to take the time to write more symptoms.  Symptoms, Triggers, Treatments, Notes.

Some people recommend that you do a very detailed diary.  Write down every little thing you eat, the major things that happen each day, where you go, etc.  The problem is that usually a variety of things are adding up to trigger your attack – in other words, a banana may not bother you one day, but a banana plus the fluorescent lights plus the weather may the next.  A migraine diary may cause confusion over the short term (in other words, for a very detailed diary to work, you may need to keep it for 2-3 months!).

You’ll have to try different things, and talk to your doctor, to see what helps you get the the root(s) of your migraine attacks.

Lazy – or not

So this migraine diary can be very quick – something that really only about a minute each day.  Or, you may need to go into great detail – it can do that too.  The advantage is that you can use the same diary either way – and have a consistent comparison over months and years if you need it.

If you’re a visual thinker like me, you’ll like the little chart in the corner.  You can graph your symptoms, so that you can see at a glance how the attacks got worse and better over the week.

Keeping a migraine diary the lazy way is better than doing nothing at all.  A minute a day might lead you to a breakthrough that drastically cuts down on your attacks.  And that’s what we want!

Download the migraine diary (pdf format), or go to the headache diary page to get instructions.

Migraine Diary

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3 comments… add one
  • migrainemike Nov 20, 2009

    For me, filling out a migraine diary by hand felt like busy work… there was no way to search or report on the information i was tracking every day.

    I created a website for tracking my own migraines–basically an online migraine diary @ http://www.migraineliving.com The real benefit for me was the ability to run reports to see how weather, time of day, day of the week, and dietary / environmental triggers impacted my migraines.

    I’ve openned it up for other migraineurs to use and track their migraines. I hope it helps.

  • Shannon Jul 3, 2010

    Also check out http://www.mymigrainejournal.com which offers highly customizable trigger questions and some fancy statistical analyses. Also lets you download all your records any time you want in several different formats.

  • Health Diaries Nov 13, 2017

    We also released Headache Tracker: an easy to use and highly customizable headache diary. For anyone who could benefit from it, you can download Headache Tracker here:
    iOS: http://apple.co/2ytkGGM
    Android: http://bit.ly/2zwjS7A

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