Pediatrics journal published the findings of a study using guided imagery conducted at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Thirty four children ages 6 to 15 years, with a diagnosis of functional abdominal pain were assigned to receive two months of at home guided imagery treatment and standard medical care.  Children who received only standard medical care were subsequently given the treatment after two months.


All of the children were observed for six months after the guided imagery treatment ended.  Almost 100% of the participants remained in the study (98.5%).  In the group receiving guided imagery 63.1% of the children responded to treatment, compared to only 26.7% in the medical treatment only group. When the children in the medical treatment only group received the guided imagery, 61.5 % responded to treatment.


The researchers concluded that guided imagery treatment plus medical care was far superior to standard medical care over a long period of time.Functional abdominal pain is one of the most common complaints of childhood and teenagers who are evaluated by gastroenterologists.  The condition happens very often in children and is  a type of abdominal pain that lacks a known or detectable or physical source, despite a thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing.   While it can occur occasionally or continuously, the exact cause of the pain is unknown.


Functional abdominal pain may be caused by an extreme sensitivity to pain or a failure of the stomach to relax during eating. Most commonly, it is triggered by stress or anxiety. It can happen during periods of change or stress in families, such as the birth of a new sibling or the  illness of a family member;  when parents have limited time to spend with their child. Starting school may also trigger recurrent abdominal pain. In some cases, a child can develop chronic abdominal pain related to his or her need for attention.


This type of pain typically lasts less than one hour, and most children do not have difficulties with growth and development or other physical symptoms such as weight loss, fever, rash, joint pain or swelling. Many children with functional abdominal pain have a family history of gastrointestinal problems.