iPhone medical apps for patients with migraine headaches

by Diana E. Lee

Some are free, others are not, but there are some great, off the beaten path apps on this list that are well worth downloading to your iPhone.

1. iHeadache (free version, with ads).This app isn’t bad, but I did find some features less than ideal. You’re limited to their list of symptoms, which may not include all of your symptoms. It didn’t include all of mine, such as dizziness, overheating and sensitivity to touch and smell. It also has a set list of possible triggers. It covers most of the most popular triggers, but if your migraine was triggered by tomatoes, soy or nuts, for example, there is no way to make note of this. One feature I love is that the app allows you to put in the list of all the medications you take for treatment so you can easily choose from that list in recording what you used to treat that particular attack.

2. Headache Relief Diary (free). This app is great for logging acute migraine episodes and including all the pertinent information. It is my favorite of the headache & migraine apps I’ve come across so far. It’s highly flexible. Like the iHeadache app it has a set list of symptoms, but it also has an “other” option, which allows you to type in symptoms that aren’t listed. I also like that it allows you to record the level of effectiveness and side effects of treatment medications you took for your attack. Finally the app gives you a place to record the daily medications you take. It is nice to have this information in the same place as the other information you record.

3. iManage Migraine (free). I don’t want to be mean, but I find this application cheesy and rather juvenile. It’s designed to be like a town square with each street representing a different migraine-related topic, i.e. Management Lane, Treatment Alley, Migraine Street, etc. It really annoys me, thus I cannot ever imagine using it. If it sounds like something you might like feel free to give it a try and let me know what you think. It is offered by the pharmaceutical company Merck, but I promise my dislike has nothing to do with this association. There are some pharmaceutical company websites for patients that do a very nice job of presenting relevant information in a respectful way. Unfortunately this app doesn’t.

3. Epocrates (free). This app is an extremely useful resource for any patient. It provides photos of pills for easy identification, lists of drug interactions and medical news with expert commentary. Having this with you at the doctor or pharmacy puts a ton of relevant information into the palm of your hand. There are many times it would be useful at home, too. I mean, who has a Physician’s Desk Reference around? With this app there is no need.

4. Medical Encyclopedia (free). This fantastic app provides lists of symptoms, diseases, surgeries, tests, etc. to allow you to look up a particular topic and learn more about it wherever you are. When a doctor is throwing out a term you don’t quite understand you can look it up here and get the information you need as a lay person.

5. Chronic Pain Tracker (lite version is free). This is the perfect app for people living with chronic pain. Rather than limiting you to entering acute migraine or pain episodes it assumes you have pain every day or almost every day and lets you enter information accordingly. I’m a big fan of this one. I’m using the lite version and finding it completely adequate. Definitely start with the lite version before you pay for it and see if it suits your needs.

6. Health Through Breath: Pranayama ($4.99). This is a really cool meditation app that would be awesome to have on your iPhone when you are in pain and need to breathe and practice mindfulness. I highly recommend it.

Diana E. Lee is a chronic migraine patient who blogs at Somebody Heal Me.

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  • http://www.iHeadache.com&www.BellaireNeurology.com Brian Loftus, MD

    I am glad that Diana took the time to review the headache diary apps. As a co-developer of iHeadache, I would like to comment on one error and point out some unique features of our app.

    iHeadache includes 5 custom triggers that can be used to track whatever triggers the user desires. The standard triggers are the most frequent based upon medical research. There is also a note field where users can make notes to their MD about additional symptoms, medication responses, etc. The symptom list is based upon the criteria developed by the International Headache Society and is intended to help the user and their physician determine the headache type.

    Our app is designed specifically to improve the patient/physician communication and to help the user determine if their therapy is working. With this in mind, we generate reports that summarizes the data by units of time (28 days, 30 days, monthly). We collect actual disability data including the MIDAS scale (a standard Migraine Disability tool) but also actual disability hours. We summarize medication usage so one can easily check for the possibility of rebound headache. We summarize headache days to aide in the diagnosis of chronic headache and chronic migraine.

    We also have created an online support system and are developing an online version that will sync with the iPhone, track preventive treatments and improve the reports (including graphs).

    We have tutorials on using iHeadache and best practice recommendations on our website at http://www.iHeadache.com.

    Thank you for allowing me to post this reply.

    Brian D. Loftus, MD
    Bellaire Neurology
    http://www.BellaireNeurology.com

    Clinical Advisory Committee, Lone Star Multiple Sclerosis Chapter
    Clinical Care Committee, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
    Texas Neurological Society Headache Section Head