A woman laying on a couch, clutching her forehead and abdomen in pain.

Abdominal Migraines

Does anyone out there suffer from abdominal migraines? This is not to be confused with an IBS flare. From my nursing experience, abdominal migraines usually occur in children and teens, but I have known some adults to have these. They don't necessarily cause constipation or diarrhea, but other symptoms that can present are similar.

What is an abdominal migraine?

These types of "migraines" aren't actual headaches, but instead, they make your stomach ache. They can often occur due to the same triggers as migraine headaches, and often cause nausea, cramps, and sometimes vomiting. While they don't occur often in adults, it is possible. Studies have shown that there are correlations between abdominal migraines and actual migraines, usually when the abdominal migraines begin at childhood.1

Abdominal migraine causes and triggers

The exact cause of abdominal migraines is not known. One theory suggests that specific changes to the gut-brain axis, vascular dysregulation, changes in the central nervous system, and genetic factors have been could be potential risk factors for abdominal migraines.2

Symptoms of abdominal migraines

It will typically hurt in the center of your body or around your belly button, and not on the sides. One could also:3

  • Feel nauseated or throw up
  • Be pale or flushed
  • Be drowsy or have little energy
  • Have a loss of appetite or be unable to eat
  • Have dark circles under their eyes

Abdominal migraines often occur suddenly and can be quite severe without warning. The pain could last anywhere from hours to days.3

Abdominal migraine diagnosis and treatmeant

Abdominal migraines can be hard to diagnose because people have difficulty telling the difference between stomachaches, stomach viruses, or other problems involving the gut. Other causes of stomach pain will also have to be ruled out. Not much is known about abdominal migraines, so physicians may treat them like other regular migraines. Medication is usually not prescribed unless the symptoms are significant and occur very often. It is suggested to keep a diary noting the date and time it occurs, what foods were eaten, what was occurring when it happened if any medication was taken recently, and if there's any unusual increased stress or anxiety.2

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