If you’re serious about getting your migraines and other headaches under control, the BonTriage website and app allow you to complete a free assessment, after which you’ll have a comprehensive clinical report that you can bring to your doctor.
Developed by leading board-certified headache professionals, the app claims it’s “like bringing a headache specialist to a doctor’s appointment,” since it asks the right questions to help guide diagnosis and treatment, which can then help you conquer your headaches. In other words, it focuses on helping you and your doctor find solutions.
Obtaining this clinical impression and tracking your headaches is completely free of charge through the BonTriage website and app, and all of your information is kept private and secure.
Whether your headaches are mild or severe, or you experience them infrequently or daily, you’re looking for some help managing them. But can you really expect BonTriage to put you on the path back to a better quality of life?
Here, we’ll discuss what we learned during our research, including an interview with one of the company’s founders.
The Basics Behind Headaches
When asking “What causes headaches,” Dr. Alan Rapoport explains on BonTriage’s website that “we are actually asking two different questions: “Why do I get headaches” and “what causes (or triggers) a particular headache? Two questions? Two answers.”
Like all types of pain, Dr. Rapoport explains that headaches signal that something is wrong in our environment, whether externally or internally. Sometimes, however, he notes this pain signal can become overly sensitive and triggered by “relatively benign changes in the environment (like a change in hormone levels or a drop in barometric pressure, or a bad night’s sleep).” Then, the body perceives this “as something terribly wrong in the environment, and the pain message goes out.”
As a result, it’s important to work with your doctor to help identify and manage your specific headache triggers, whether it’s light, noise, hormonal changes, a glass of wine, insufficient sleep, medications, or anything else. And even once potential triggers are identified, WebMD indicates there are 150 different types of headache diagnoses.
Given these details, let’s take a closer look at how BonTriage’s app might help make the process simpler.
How Does the BonTriage App Work?
When you first open BonTriage’s iOS app, you’ll answer a few headache-related questions that will take about five minutes. Once complete, this information will provide you with an expert analysis (more about this in the next section).
After setting up your profile, you’ll have the ability to check in with the BonTriage app each day, where you can “monitor your sleep, exercise, eating patterns and medication use, as well as suspected triggers, like weather change, stress, and others you have identified.”
BonTriage’s iOS app allows users to track multiple factors for more than one headache type, including date, time, length, severity, location, and behaviors and potential triggers. Image credit BonTriage, Inc.
The app can track multiple distinct headache types and any medications you’re taking; can be customized based on individual triggers, and you’ll also have the ability to leave notes. All of this can be accessed quickly and, if necessary, you can go back and modify previous entries for more accurate reporting.
The result? In just a few minutes per day, you’ll be able to view user-friendly charts and graphs spanning weeks, months, or for the year that can help you “build your risk profile” and uncover connections between these factors and your headaches.
You’ll also be able to improve communication with your healthcare professional and learn which things increase, decrease, or have no effect on your headaches.
After entering your factors over time, the BonTriage app allows users to view graphs and charts to help identify trends. Image credit BonTriage, Inc.
What Happens During the BonTriage Assessment?
Before you start tracking these factors in the app, you’ll need to complete at least the first section of BonTriage’s questionnaire, which will help your healthcare professional make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. This is something they can accomplish only after medical and neurological examination, along with an impression such as this.
In other words, the site emphasizes that this impression does not provide a diagnosis and is not a substitute for an evaluation by your doctor.
With this in mind, the first section of the assessment starts off by asking basic questions, such as those about your age, gender, the age of your first headache, and whether or not your headaches have changed significantly in the last few months.
Questions progressively increase in specificity, such as how long it takes for your headaches to reach maximum severity, how many times per month you experience them, which side of the head where your most severe headaches occur, the specific site, pain intensity, and so forth.
A screenshot of one question found in BonTriage’s assessment. Since these details didn’t transfer from their website, though, we might recommend completing it directly in the app after downloading. Image credit: BonTriage, Inc.
After completing this first section, which took us about five minutes, you’ll be provided with a clinical impression that can be taken to your doctor. You can view it live on the website or download it as a PDF.
However, if you’re interested in a more complete impression, there are four additional sections for the assessment, covering everything from pain intensity and sleep, diet, and exercise habits to emotional aspects and family history. This took us about another 30 minutes.
Since our answers remained fairly consistent throughout the process, though, completing the entire assessment (versus only the first section) did not change the impression.
Note: Even after a couple of hours, the assessment we originally completed on the BonTriage website did not transfer over to the app, including after signing in. And since at least this first section is required in order to begin using it, we might recommend that you start by downloading the app and completing the questionnaire there.
What Are BonTriage Users Saying In Their Reviews?
There were just two online user reviews for the BonTriage app at the time of our research, both of which were found on iTunes.
One gave the app a three-star rating, claiming that data entry was a major problem, along with other “small bugs and annoyances.” The other gave it two stars, noting that the app tracked headaches as “ongoing,” even when this wasn’t correct.
Who’s Behind BonTriage?
BonTriage, Inc. is based out of Menlo Park, CA and was founded by Robert P. Cowan, MD, Alan Rapoport, MD, and Jim Blythe, Ph.D.
According to their bios on the BonTriage website, Robert is Professor of Neurology and Director of the Headache Facial Pain Program at Stanford University, as well as founding medical director at the Keeler Center for the Study of Headache.
Alan is Clinical Professor of Neurology at The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and immediate Past-President of the International Headache Society, while Jim is a Research Scientist at the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.
We’re told he has "over 5000 citations across 100 publications in artificial intelligence, knowledge acquisition, machine learning, social network analysis, and security."
The Bottom Line About BonTriage
According to the World Health Organization, headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system, with anywhere between 1.7 and four percent of the population experiencing them on 15 days or more per month. Despite this, we’re told these disorders are one of the least appropriately diagnosed.
Given this, it’s easy to see how apps like BonTriage could provide a great deal of insight—and potential treatments—into headaches.
And while there are certainly hundreds of different apps, websites, computer programs, and tracking sheets that might help you accomplish much of the same, BonTriage was the only one at the time of our research to utilize an extensive assessment to deliver a clinical impression that can be implemented by your doctor.
On top of this, the app is completely free and we found it very easy to use, so you might not have much more to lose than a few minutes of your time if you find that it doesn’t meet your needs.
In the meantime, be sure to bookmark this page, as we’ll update it soon based on our interview with one of the company’s founders.