A headache diary is a log of headaches and migraines which is used as part of a treatment program for people with recurrent headaches. This tool can be useful in diagnosis, management of headaches and migraines, and medical treatment. Several companies make software which can be used to track headaches and manage a headache diary, and it is also possible to keep a copy in a printed headache journal or even a notebook which is utilized to keep track of information about headaches.
In a headache diary, the patient notes down every headache experienced. The notes detail the intensity, time, duration, and location of the headache, and take a note of sensations experienced, such as throbbing pain or compression. In the diary, the patient also logs foods eaten prior to the onset of the headache, along with activities engaged in, sleep patterns, and other data which may be useful. Many patients also note which treatment they used to address the headache, and how effective the treatment was.
By examining the data in the headache diary, a doctor can identify particular triggers which seem to promote headaches in the patient. For example, the log may reveal that the patient is prone to experiencing headaches after eating certain foods, or after getting reduced amounts of sleep. Without a detailed headache diary, it might be difficult to identify these causes, as patients may not be able to recall these seemingly small details in an interview with a doctor or a discussion of headache history.
For a headache diary to be effective, the patient needs to log the data as soon as possible after or during a headache, when the memories of the event are still fresh. In addition to discussing headaches, the patient may also take note of additional symptoms such as muscle pain, soreness, vision problems, and so forth, as all of this data can become relevant when it is collected in a headache diary. Honesty in the log is critical, as obscuring information can make it harder to identify the cause of the headaches.
Patients typically take their headache diaries along to medical appointments. In the case of software, the patient brings a printout, and the doctor may keep the data in the patient's chart to ensure that it will be readily accessible. Patients can also use the data at home to identify particular trends and use this data in the management and prevention of headaches.