So Many Migraines, So Few Specialists

New Study Reveals a Shortage of Migraine Specialists in the U.S., Even in Geographic Areas with High Prevalence of Migraine

BOSTON, June 26, 2013 – A new study has found a widespread shortage of specialists certified in the diagnosis and treatment of migraine, a highly disabling disorder that affects more than 11% of the U.S. population.

The shortages are not evenly distributed across states, with six states having no migraine specialists at all.  States such as New York have the highest number of specialists (56), followed by California with 29, Ohio with 29, Texas with 25, Florida with 24, and Pennsylvania with 23, while states with the worst ratios of provider to migraine patients include Oregon, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Kansas.  The District of Columbia has the best ratio, followed by New Hampshire, New York, and Nebraska.

“This is a troubling picture,” said by Noah I. Rosen, MD of the Pain and Headache Center of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, who led the study. “Migraine is a highly disabling disorder – the seventh most disabling in the world and the fourth most disabling among women.  It’s clear that many more specialists need to be trained and certified to meet the need,” he said.

He noted that migraine costs the United States more than $29 billion each year in direct medical expenses such as doctor visits and medications, and indirect expenses like missed work and lost productivity.

Currently only 416 specialists are certified by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS) to treat an estimated 36 million migraine sufferers over age 12 in the U.S. According to the American Headache Society, migraine affects more Americans that diabetes or asthma combined.

The assessment comes in a paper presented at the International Headache Congress meeting here this week. The Congress, hosted this year by the American Headache Society, draws about 1,000 headache and migraine researchers and treatment specialists from around the world to hear the latest scientific and clinical information.  This year’s theme – “Revolutionizing Headache Care Through Science” – is a four-day program of teaching and scientific presentations.


Some 36 million Americans suffer from migraine, more than have asthma or diabetes combined.  More than six million Americans suffer from chronic migraine, a highly disabling neurological disorder. Migraine can be extremely disabling and costly, accounting for more than $29 billion in direct and indirect expenses each year in the United States.


IHS, founded in the United Kingdom in 1982, is the world’s leading membership organization for those with a professional commitment to helping people affected by headache. The purpose is to advance headache science, education, and management, and promote headache awareness worldwide. IHS publishes the international journal Cephalalgia.


The American Headache Society (AHS) is a professional society of health care providers dedicated to the study and treatment of headache and face pain. The Society’s objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders. Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of this organization. AHS activities include an annual scientific meeting, a comprehensive headache symposium, regional symposia for neurologists and family practice physicians, publication of the journal Headache and sponsorship of the AHS Committee for Headache Education (ACHE).  www.americanheadachesociety.org


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