What is Abdominal Migraine?
Abdominal Migraine usually involves the onset of abdominal pain that is located in the middle of the abdomen, around the umbilicus. These pains are often moderate to severe in intensity, and described as a ‘dull ache’ . It isn’t uncommon for sufferers of abdominal migraine to also experience, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and paleness during attacks. Episodes of Abdominal Migraine typically last 1-72 hours, with full resolution in between attacks. Sufferers may experience up to 4 attacks per week. While it is possible for Abdominal Migraines to be experienced by adults, they are far more common in children, with the mean age being between 3 and 10 years old . Children who experience Abdominal Migraine have been linked to experiencing classic migraines in adulthood .
While Abdominal Migraines are classed as a migraine, they very rarely will involve a headache. This may be because episodes that involve headaches are frequently diagnosed as a common migraine. Along with Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, Abdominal Migraines are described as a ‘Recurrent Gastrointestinal Disturbance’
Abdominal Migraine vs Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
Though there are similarities in the symptoms between Abdominal Migraine and Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, they are different diagnoses and have some key differences.
Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome can last for up to 10 days, and typically refers to waves of intense nausea and vomiting. Whereas, Abdominal Migraines will typically last for 3 days . While you can experience nausea and vomiting with an Abdominal Migraine, it is more typically just experienced as abdominal pain.
Pale skin and loss of appetite are common between both conditions.
What is the cause of Abdominal Migraine?
While there are many theories as to the cause of Abdominal Migraine, none have been definitively proven. It has been suggested that gut motility, gut permeability and gut function could be altered in sufferers. This may be due to the role of chemicals such as histamines and serotonin in the body. Likely though, the central nervous system is not effectively performing its role of ‘down-regulating’ gut activity during attacks. This could be because of the sensitivity of central structures, and the affect of certain lifestyle factors, like stress or anxiety, on the function of these structures.
When establishing the cause of Abdominal Migraines, it is important to differentiate them from other conditions with similar symptoms. Assessment should aim to differentiate between Abdominal Migraine and conditions like; Irritable Bowel Syndrome, appendicitis, stomach flu and gastroenteritis.
It isn’t uncommon for sufferers of Abdominal Migraine to have no signs of dysfunction or underlying pathology can be detected on testing. In these cases, modern research suggests that the underlying cause may be due to dysfunction in your cervical spine (neck) and a sensitised brainstem .
The brainstem receives input from nerves travelling from all over the body, and reacts or passes on this information to the brain. When the brainstem is sensitised, it will perceive non-threatening information (such as eating different foods) as a threat, triggering a pain response where that information came from (in the stomach or abdomen). In the clients that we see, it is common that dysfunction in the cervical spine can cause the brainstem to become sensitive.
I’ve already tried everything. What else can be done to help Abdominal Migraine?
It isn’t uncommon for our patients who experience Abdominal Migraine to have tried a wide range of treatments or medications in attempts to treat their condition. Some have gone through over-the counter pain medication, triptan medications and even anti-depressants. Major changes to diet are also not uncommon. Sometimes these measures can have some affect, but commonly it is short-lived or does not work. This is where The Headache and Migraine Clinic comes in, we pride ourselves in using the most modern research to assess the upper cervical spin and the brainstem to determine if they are the true cause of you Abdominal Migraines.
If we can establish that the sensitised brainstem and your cervical spine are the true cause of your symptoms, then treatment can start right away. We use our world leading techniques to treat the dysfunction in your neck and then de-sensitise your brainstem, effectively treating the cause of your Abdominal Migraines. The best part is that our method is, safe, gentle, non-invasive and medication free.