The sad fact about CVS is that it is often not diagnosed for up 2.5 years in children and up to 9 years in adults. This is due to its complexity of presenting symptoms and misdiagnosis of gastrointestinal issues or abdominal migraine. It crazily has led to most patients having avoidable medical procedures before getting a proper diagnosis. It’s even recorded that up to 27-50% of CVS sufferers will become migraineurs into adult life.
CVS has a huge impact on quality of life, with increased anxiety and depression, as nausea and vomiting are so debilitating. It is linked to poor psychosocial function and increases in irritable bowel syndrome.
Nausea and vomiting is the cause of 38% of all missed workdays, leisure days, and household activity days. Children are also reported to miss up to 19-24 days of school or childcare. Even scarier than watching your poor children suffer is to learn that 50% of children need IV intervention and hospital admission and 27% of them need this every episode.
We have known for many years that the upper cervical spine has been involved in causing nausea and vomiting. Furthermore, recent research has explained a common underlying condition, which is sensitivity in the brainstem. This is the same for migraine, cervicogenic headache, tension-type headache, and menstrual migraines. The brainstem receives information from two inputs only - the upper cervical area, including the upper 3 joints, one disc with the surrounding muscles, and the trigeminal area of the brain. The brainstem sits at the bottom of the brain, connecting it to the spinal cord, and is nestled in the canal of the upper cervical spine.
So, you can just imagine how much of a direct input the upper cervical has into the brainstem itself. So, back to the sensitivity. This sensitivity in the brainstem reduces our tolerance to normal events, such as poor sleep, stress, dehydration, bright lights, poor head postures, hormonal fluctuation, and foods such as cheese, wine, chocolate, and other additives. Other triggers of CVS can be viral infections and emotional events that include panic attacks, anxiety, and even social events such as parties which are supposed to be fun….sigh!
I bet you are asking, how do children have all this sensitivity at such a young age? They are just starting out. They usually haven’t been subjected to large amounts of stress, binging on alcohol, or significant hormonal fluctuations.
However, they do have a heavy head and weak un-developed deep neck stabilising muscles. These get stronger with age, and this may explain just how they grow out of it. It may also explain why some continue to have symptoms into adolescence or adult life. Especially if they have had a head knock, concussion, or neck injury, which is not uncommon in children as they play, learn and grow.
This may be the reason so many of these children become migraineurs, as this sensitivity remains in silence until the threshold is exceeded and migraine results. That is unless it is addressed and the dysfunction in the upper cervical spine is corrected.
It may be surprising to know that the treatment of CVS is similar to migraine treatment with the use of amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant that works in the brainstem by blocking receptors and anti-nausea drugs. These are being given to children at such a young age which is alarming when considering the long-term effects of medication.
The key is to find out why you or your child have sensitivity in the brainstem. At The Headache Clinic, we frequently treat those with CVS, abdominal migraine, and nausea, vomiting symptoms.
Our practitioners all come from either a physiotherapist or chiropractic background who have undergone special training to diagnose and effectively treat the upper cervical spine and reduce the sensitivity with great success. If any of this resonates with you or your child and you would like to have a chat with one of our practitioners, please feel free to give us a call and request a free 15-minute consult. We are here to help.