How well do headache patients remember? A comparison of self-report measures of headache frequency and severity in patients with migraine

Headache. 2009 May;49(5):669-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01411.x.


Objective: To compare patient recall of migraine headache frequency and severity over 4 weeks prior to a return visit as reported in an interval questionnaire vs a daily diary.

Background: Many therapeutic decisions in the management of migraine patients are based on patient recall of response to treatment. As consistent completion of a daily headache diary is problematic, we have assessed the reliability of patient recall in a 1-time questionnaire.

Methods: Headache frequency and average severity (0 to 3-point scale) were reported in an interval questionnaire by 209 patients who had also maintained a daily diary over the same 4-week period.

Results: Headache frequency over the previous 4 weeks as reported in interval questionnaires (14.7) was not different from that documented in diaries (15.1), P = .056. However, reported average headache severity on a 0 to 3 scale as reported in the questionnaire (1.84) was worse than that documented in the diaries (1.63), P < .001.

Conclusions: In the management of individual patients, the daily diary is still preferable when available. Aggregate assessment of headache frequency in groups of patients based on recall of the prior 4 weeks is equally as reliable as a diary. Headache severity reported in questionnaires tends to be greater than that documented in daily diaries and may be less reliable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior
  • Male
  • Medical Records / statistics & numerical data
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Young Adult