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I Suffer From Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome Treatment

The main presentation of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS) is episodes of severe vomiting followed most often by complete symptom-free periods, hence the cyclical nature of the disorder. However, occasionally sufferers may experience mild symptoms in-between. The episodes can last anywhere from 1 hour up to 10 days.
CVS is more common in children, with children ages 3-7 most affected. Some cases of CVS can occur in adults as well.

At the Brisbane Headache and Migraine Clinic™, our headache experts have seen countless CVS sufferers. So, if you suffer from CVS, and medication has given you no significant relief, then we believe that you should have a thorough examination of your brainstem and receive Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome treatment.


Understanding Your Symptoms

Symptoms of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome

Unfortunately, CVS is often difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can present very similarly to other disorders, specifically Abdominal Migraine. Within each Cyclical Vomiting episode, the sufferer will vomit at least 4 times per hour, and an attack can last 1 hour-10 days1, which can often lead to severe dehydration. Notably, the episodes present similarly in terms of duration, time of onset, intensity and type of symptoms as well.

The common signs and symptoms of CVS include:

  • recurring episodes of vomiting that can last up to a week
  • severe nausea
  • intense sweating

Accompanying features that may or may not be present with CVS include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhoea
  • fever
  • dizziness


While CVS is considered to be a “migraine disorder”, it is rarely associated with headaches. This is due to attacks including headaches being classified as “classic” or “common” migraine.

A man experiencing a Migraine

Understanding Your Headache

What is the cause of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome?

Currently, the exact cause of CVS is not known, however, some theories suggest that certain chemicals produced by the body (histamine and serotonin) have a role to play. Other possible causes include genetic differences or hormonal imbalances.

With individuals that may be suffering from Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, and have no underlying pathology or disorder that can be recognised, another known cause may be due to a sensitised brainstem.

A sensitised brainstem will perceive non-threatening stimuli (such as eating certain foods) and create pain to be felt where the sensory information was originally detected. This hyper-excitability of the pain sensation is due to the heightened arousal and sensitive brainstem. A sensitive brainstem will relay the sensory information to the brain, but will heighten the sensation so that the brain perceives the information as painful.

About The Assessment Stage

What To Expect During The Assessment

1. Comprehensive and in-depth examination

We instigate an in-depth assessment to identify all possible related factors that could be causing your headaches or migraines. The upper cervical spine, in particular, is thoroughly examined to identify possible issues.

2. Ligamental stability and vertebral arterial tests

We undertake careful examination of neck ligaments and vertebral arteries, ensuring only the highest standards of patient safety and comfort.

3. Temporarily reproduce your headache and migraine symptoms

As a part of the treatment process, we apply gentle and selective stress to the upper cervical spine in order to reproduce headache symptoms, which subside after 20-30 seconds. This helps to identify and treat the cause of your headaches.

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome vs Abdominal Migraine

What's the difference

Though they’re often mistaken for the same condition, but there are differences between Abdominal Migraine and Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.

Cyclic vomiting syndrome refers to waves of intense nausea, vomiting, and other stomach problems for no obvious reason. Cyclic vomiting syndrome may also last up to 10 days, compared to 3 days for Abdominal Migraine. While you may experience nausea and vomiting as a symptom of Abdominal Migraine, Abdominal Migraine is often experienced purely as abdominal pain.

In both cases, sufferers can experience loss of appetite and pale skin during an attack.

Diagnosing CVS in children

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome can be hard to diagnose as children may have difficulty distinguishing between stomach flu and an abdominal migraine. Other causes for stomach pain should be ruled out such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gastroenteritis, appendicitis, etc.

In children affected with CVS, it is more likely that they will experience migraines or headaches when they reach adulthood.

I’ve already tried everything. What can be done to help my Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome?

Treating your Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome

Over-the-counter painkillers, strong triptan medications, and even tricyclic antidepressants are some of the ways in which CVS sufferers have attempted to rid themselves, or their child of the painful attacks. In some cases, these ways can alleviate the symptoms of CVS, however, despite all of these treatment options, sufferers may still find themselves having painful attacks.

At the Brisbane Headache and Migraine Clinic™, we have seen countless CVS sufferers. So, if you suffer from CVS, or if you think it sounds like your symptoms, and medication has given you no significant relief, then we believe that you should have a thorough examination of your brainstem.

The best part about the treatment is, that it is medication-free, surgery-free and invasive-free.

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