A survey was circulated among 100 outpatients with headache and 50 physicians to explore the question of what the headache patient wants when he comes to the doctor. Factors considered “most important to the patient” were rated by both physicians and patients. Other information obtainedfrom patients included: age, sex, duration of headache(s), whether there was more than one type of headache, did they understand the cause of the headache, how much they believed “tension” contributed to their headache, whether they were concerned about a brain tumor, andexpectations about pain relief.

Factors of importance to patients were listed as to those chosen first (most important), and as to their frequency of appearance among the top three choices. Pain relief and an explanation of what was causing the pain were listed with high frequency among both physician and patient groups. However, physicians tended to rate pain relief and medications higher (98% and 68%, respectively) than did the patients (69% and 20% respectively). Of factors selected first, 66% of physicians thought patients were primarily seeking pain relief, but only 31% of the patients listed pain relief as most important; 46% desired an explanation of the cause. One out of five patients chose factors not selected at all by physicians, such asa neurologic exam, an eye exam, or a doctor willing to follow them for their headache.

From this study it is concluded that although pain relief is an important aspect of treatment, it is often not the primary concern of the headache patient.