When to make a specialty referral for a headache patient

Headache disorders, by nature, can be difficult to diagnose and treat. When providers are uncomfortable with the diagnosis or feel the patient may need additional treatments with which they aren’t as familiar, it’s best to make a referral, according to Brian M. Plato, D.O., FAHS, neurologist and headache/migraine specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute.

“There’s not necessarily a specific threshold of symptoms or length of time experiencing, but it is generally reasonable to try at least one medication treatment prior to referring,” he said.

When it comes to treatments, headache specialists urge caution regarding which medications are prescribed.

“I think that any time a physician is contemplating using opioids or barbiturates, they should maybe refer to a headache specialist prior to starting those,” Dr. Plato said.

Treatment alternatives include lifestyle modifications such as regular sleep patterns, reduced caffeine intake, stress management and the use of vitamins and supplements. Other interventions like yoga and meditation have been successful as well.

“When left untreated, patients are at risk of developing more frequent or more difficult-to-treat headaches. This concept is referred to as the chronification of migraine. Detecting headaches early is also important, as it allows us to screen for other, potentially dangerous conditions that may be causing them,” Dr. Plato said.

Improved access to specialty care

Norton Neuroscience Institute has expanded telehealth offerings to help make early detection easier by reducing the wait for specialist consultation. Norton Telehealth also allows for increased efficiency by reducing missed appointments and facilitating a faster flow of information with tasks like updating patient charts.

Norton Neuroscience Institute headache medicine specialists treat more headache and migraine patients than any other providers in the area. The team includes advanced nurse practitioners certified by the National Headache Foundation and two of the fewer than 600 physicians in the country certified in headache medicine.

Refer a Patient

Use Norton EpicLink to quickly and easily refer a patient to a headache specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Make a Referral

Get Our Monthly Newsletter

Stay informed on the latest offerings and treatments available at Norton Healthcare by subscribing to our monthly enewsletter.


Make a Referral

Partnering with you in caring for your patients.

Refer a Patient
Are You a Patient?
Provider Spotlight

Shawn W. Adams, M.D.

After spinal fellowships in the latest surgical techniques, Shawn W. Adams, M.D., has joined Norton Leatherman Spine and Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Read More

Search our entire site.