Sydney Headache & Migraine Centre

Abdominal Migraine

Many people have heard of ‘migraine’, however have you heard about an abdominal migraine? It is a migraine event where abdominal pain is the main symptom and may not be associated with any head pain at all!

It is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, yet it affects many individuals, particularly children. Literature suggests that 70% of these children develop classic migraine or recurrent abdominal pain syndrome later in their life and experiencing abdominal migraine as children is considered as a paediatric precursor of migraine and abdominal pain syndrome.

The symptoms that people experience during an episode are:

Abdominal migraine is a variant of migraine that primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike typical migraines, which involve severe headaches, abdominal migraines manifest primarily as recurrent episodes of moderate to severe abdominal pain that can last more than one hour and up to days . These episodes can interfere with normal daily activities and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, pallor, anorexia (loss of appetite), photophobia and presence or absence of headache.


How do we diagnose abdominal migraine?

The cause of the abdominal migraine is unclear, however there are some hypotheses related to visceral hypersensitivity, gut-brain enteric nervous system alterations and psychological factors including stress. Diagnosing abdominal migraine can be challenging due to its diverse and often nonspecific symptoms. Medical professionals typically rely on a thorough medical history including family history, physical examination, and the exclusion of other potential causes of abdominal pain, such as gastrointestinal disorders or food intolerances.

Treatment Approach for Abdominal Migraines

Due to the close association between the gut and the brain, Migraine-specific neck treatments, using the highly renowned Watson Headache® Approach, is an exceptional treatment option for all headache and migraine conditions, including abdominal. This involves physically assessing the Upper Cervical Spine (UCS) for stiffness and pain, with particular interest in the sensitisation of the brainstem. While abdominal migraine primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract, its underlying mechanisms may still involve cervical dysfunction and brainstem sensitisation related to gut-brain axis. By addressing musculoskeletal imbalances and restoring optimal function to the upper cervical spine, the Watson Headache® Approach aims to reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of migraine episodes.


Management of lifestyle factors such as diet, hydration, sleep, exercise tolerance, managing stress and anxiety can also be very useful. We have a strong referral network should patients require specialised care in more specific areas. We can also guide you to a dietician who specifically helps headache and migraine community.


Our holistic approach emphasizes patient education, manual therapy techniques, and self-management strategies to empower individuals in managing their condition effectively.


Book A Migraine/Headache Assessment

Book online or give us a call on 1300MyHeadache (1300 694 323) to organise an assessment with Sydney Headache & Migraine Centre and learn more about what causes your migraines and how we can help treat them.

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