Treatment For Abdominal Migraines

Manage The Pain, Reduce The Disruption...

The Short Answer –

Treatment for abdominal migraines is often difficult because the vast majority of sufferers are children between the ages of 3 and 10 years old.

However, fail to fully treat their abdominal migraine and you risk damaging your child’s natural development, both educationally and socially.

The key to treating abdominal migraines is to reduce stress levels for your child and there are a variety of ways to achieve this, all of which are discussed below…

The Critical 1st Stage Of Treating An Abdominal Migraine.

Abdominal migraines are one of the common causes of abdominal pain in children

While there is no actual cure for abdominal migraines, they will resolve completely in most patients as they get older.

As a result, successful treatment for abdominal migraines focuses on controlling the symptoms and fast, effective recovery from each episode.

Without a strong treatment plan, it is likely substantial schooling and educational/ developmental time will be lost to the condition.

Treatment of symptoms is still key to minimise the disruption to you child’s development

The first course of treatment is to explain abdominal migraines to your child and to reassure them that they are not fatal, can be managed and that they will grow out of them in time.

Stress is a key trigger for abdominal migraine attacks, so reassuring them and working with them to help manage the pain is essential.

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Treating Abdominal Migraines – The Next Stages…

The next stage is to consider a range of natural of natural treatments for abdominal migraines. These include –

  • Keeping a migraine diary
  • Avoiding triggers
  • Behaviour therapy
  • Dietary Modifications
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Hydration Therapy

Pharmaceutical solutions (drug therapy) should only be considered as a last option if symptoms are debilitating and not affected by any of the principle treatments listed above.

Unfortunately, while abdominal migraines will normally resolve themselves or your child gets older, it is quite likely that they will go on to suffer migraine headaches in their adulthood.

Preparing for this by altering their diet and getting them in the habit of keeping a diary, can really help if they do start to suffer as an adult.

Keeping A Migraine Diary.

I have covered in various articles, the importance and value of keeping a migraine diary for your overall treatment plan.

A partially written migraine diary, used as a treatment for an abdominal migraine

It is so much easier to spot even the smallest trends when they written down over months and even years. By spotting links to periods of increased or decreased attacks, you can take personal steps to make a real difference on the level of abdominal migraines suffered.

Avoiding Triggers.

This is fairly self-explanatory. I cover Abdominal Migraine Triggers in another article. Suffice to say, once you’ve used your diary to identify a trigger, it is then important to avoid it as best you can and then check to see what difference it made.

Behaviour Therapy.

This involves making specific changes to maximise your child’s natural health. One example could involve starting a routine for bedtime to get a better nights’ sleep. This could include eating earlier, turning off TV, finishing with a bedtime story and wearing an eye mask in bed (to shut out light).

You could also visit a psychotherapist to discuss the difficulties of managing the condition or use cognitive behavioural therapy to help your child see that all challenges can be conquered.

In certain circumstances, some form of light hypnosis to get them to think of their abdominal migraines in a different way may be beneficial.

Dietary Modifications.

As well as cutting out foods that you think might trigger your child’s abdominal migraine, even just eating a healthier diet can help.

Three heads, one made of fast foods, one of a mix and one of vegetables symbolizing a change in diet as a treatment for an abdominal migraine

One theory around why abdominal migraines happen is that they are heavily involved with gut motility (the speed that food is transferred through your stomach).

This theory was tested in a clinical trial published in the BMC Gastroenterology (Devanarayana et al) which found a much lower motility (rate of digestion) in children suffering with abdominal migraines.

Eating more vegetables, fibre and drinking more water will have greatly help to keep your child’s stomach functioning well. Eating softer foods and soups may also help to speed up your child’s digestion and counter the effects of low motility.

Relaxation Techniques.

There is some question as to how well these work in practice with children. However, anything you do to improve the level of your child’s relaxation and therefore reducing their overall stress levels is a good thing.

Asking your child to make a story about how they feel during an abdominal migraine with themselves as the hero can help to change the way they see their situation. Discussing their story afterwards or helping with spellings/ grammar can get you more involved and seeing it from their eyes.

This could involve simply discussing their migraines with them, perhaps some ‘fun’ activities that you can do together (yoga would be even better) or even meditation.

But of course, we do realise the practicalities of asking a 7yr old to meditate!

Hydration Therapy.

This is very much a last resort based on symptoms. If your child is experiencing large bouts of nausea and sickness, then hydration therapy (forced intake of fluids) may be required to keep their strength up.

An IV tube representing hydration therapy as a treatment for an abdominal migraine

Drug Therapy

This is really best avoided with children if at all possible. However, it the long-term costs to your child are becoming great, then your doctor may feel they have no choice but to try and medicate.

Paracetamol is always a basic option for the pain with a triptan such as Sumatriptan an option iof the pain gets really bad.

Your doctor may also consider a medication to improve gastric emptying. Something like Domperidone can help with both gut motility and nausea.

In very select cases, another possible option would be to opt for a beta blocker such as propranolol or cyproheptadine. In a trial published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, both were found to have benefits as a treatment for children with abdominal migraines. 

The Final Word –

Treatment for abdominal migraines can be a tricky balancing act. Drugs are a last resort and many of the more effective techniques on adults need concentration – something not always in large supply in children.

The key though is keeping your child healthy and calm. Lots of sleep and talking the issues through with them are very much the order of the day.

If you do this, it is very likely their abdominal migraines will pass naturally with the minimum amount of disruption possible.

However, as backed up by research published in the ‘archives of disease in childhood’ (BMJ journals), while the abdominal pain may pass, it is likely the sufferer will go on to suffer with migraine headaches in adult life.

But even if they do start to suffer from migraine headaches, preparing them in pain management now will leave in the best possible position to deal with those too in the future.

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References Used –

1. Niranga Manjuri Devanarayana, Shaman Rajindrajith, Marc A Benninga. (Feb 2016). Abdominal Migraine in Children: Association Between Gastric Motility Parameters and Clinical Characteristics. BMC Gastroenterology.
2. Worawattanakul, Mingmuang; Rhoads, J. Marc; Lichtman, Steven N.; Ulshen, Martin H. (Jan 1999). Abdominal Migraine: Prophylactic Treatment and Follow-up. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.
3. F Dignan, I Abu-Arafeh, G Russell. (May 2001). The prognosis of childhood abdominal migraine. Archives Of Disease In Childhood. BMJ Journals.

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