Meet the Neurologist: Migraine
Dr. Brian Grosberg is a board-certified neurologist and headache specialist with Hartford HealthCare’s Headache Center. In our “Meet the Specialist” series, we highlight the perspectives of various medical specialists on the types of patients they see and what they find rewarding and challenging in their daily practice.
I’ve been a neurologist specializing in headache and migraine for the last 15 years. Medicine was always a passion for me; even as a child, it was something I knew I wanted to do. It was very important to my family, especially my grandmother, that I help people in my career, and that always stuck in my mind. Today, I treat thousands of patients suffering from headaches and migraine, and I feel very fortunate to be able to make a real impact on their quality of life.
Migraine is a complex neurological brain disorder in which the nervous system is overly excitable. This causes symptoms like pain, headache, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea. Migraine can be challenging to treat, but with the right treatment plan and a positive outlook, many of my patients are able to get their lives back.
In medical school, I was lucky to have great mentors, one of whom was a clinical neurologist; that’s what initially drove my interest in the field. Neurology, in essence, is the study of the nervous system, the brain, and the spinal cord. In my first year of neurology residency, I was taking care of a patient who’d been out of work several weeks for debilitating daily migraines that were not responding to conventional treatments. I called the neurologist she was seeing—one of the best headache specialists in the world—and we discussed her history and my thoughts on her situation. Based on my report, her doctor saw my passion for headache and migraine treatment and the next thing I knew, I was seeing more of his patients and doing research with him. He took me under his wing and, along with several other mentors along the way, helped foster my love for caring for people suffering from headache and migraine.
Why Headache and Migraine Care Is Different
Personally, I suffer from occasional attacks of migraine, which helps me to not only sympathize but also empathize with my patients. What drew me to this patient population was knowing I could help improve their quality of life. Migraine doesn’t just impact the health of the person; it impacts patients on a societal level, on a family level, on a work level, and on a social level. Debilitating bouts of migraine affect every aspect of someone’s life. And it’s also an invisible illness—people suffering from migraine can look perfectly normal to those who don’t know what they’re going through. Unlike other neurologic conditions like Parkinson’s disease or stroke, migraine can be hard to identify and diagnose, and not all neurologists are trained to treat it well. That’s why I feel fortunate to run a headache and migraine center specifically established to help these patients. And within our program, I train future leaders in the field of headache medicine so they can deliver care to meet the demand.
Finding the Right Migraine Specialist
Between 38 and 42 million people in the United States suffer from migraine, but there are very few headache specialists. My job is incredibly rewarding because I’m able to help patients who’ve gone to doctor after doctor with little success. When they finally make it to the headache and migraine center, I can offer them real resources and an understanding of what they’re struggling with. If you’re looking for a migraine specialist, find out if there’s a dedicated headache and migraine clinic in your area. The doctors there will be specially trained in headache medicine and better able to provide effective and state-of-the-art care. As you’re choosing your doctor, pay attention to the intake questionnaire; at my clinic, we ask patients to complete a 16-page assessment of their symptoms and medical history. It can be time consuming, but it shows that our physicians take a clear interest in understanding the details of each patient’s situation. And make sure the doctor spends enough time with you to get a thorough idea of your symptoms. Migraine is a complex condition and it’s unique for everyone. But with the right doctor and the right care, you can take control and live a full life.