Migraine is a remarkably disabling condition, although unpredictable and heterogeneous in frequency, duration and severity. It can be difficult to manage in primary care, where it is under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated. Proposals have been made that migraine care could be improved by incorporating assessments of migraine impact into management strategies. Research has shown that measuring headache-related disability, together with assessments of pain intensity, headache frequency, tiredness, mood alterations and cognition can be used to assess the impact of migraine on sufferers' lives and society. From this research, two simple and brief impact tools were developed: the Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) Questionnaire and the Headache Impact Test (HIT). Both tools are scientifically valid measures of migraine severity and have the potential to improve communication between patients and their physicians, assess migraine severity and act as outcome measures to monitor treatment efficacy. Each of these tools offers its own advantages. For example, HIT was designed for greater accessibility (on the Internet at www.headachetest.com and www.amlhealthy.com, and as a paper-based form known as HIT-6) and has a wider coverage of the spectrum of headache than MIDAS. Impact tools are also being increasingly recommended as part of generalised headache management guidelines to produce an individualised treatment plan for each patient in concert with other clinical assessments. It is not possible as yet to recommend unequivocally the optimal impact tool for use in primary care, but it should be usable by GPs, pharmacists, nurses and patients, and for research purposes.