Functional Abdominal Pain In Child: Symptoms And Treatment

When pain in abdomen occurs with no known cause after proper clinical examination, medical history and appropriate tests is called functional abdominal pain. There is no abnormality in any abdominal organs to produce this pain. Such type of pain is common in children and adolescence. The pain can be intermittent or may be constant. At least 10 to 20 percent of children are known to suffer from functional or non organic abdominal pain.

Usually the pain is located around the belly button. The pain is slowly increases in intensity. Some children may experience associated symptoms such as vomiting, gasses, fullness of abdomen etc.

Reassurance and educating the child and parents is the main focus of treatment. Sometimes modification of diet and reduction of stress also help.

Causes Of Functional Abdominal Pain In Child

The exact cause of functional abdominal pain is not known, but there are several triggers that have been suspected to produce such pain. The stomach and intestine are innervated with nerves. Sometimes certain triggers which normally do not produce any pain may cause pain in children whose gut is sensitive. The nerve roots in such case are very sensitive and they produce pain.

For example gas in abdomen and stretching can cause phenomenal pain which others may not even notice. This can be referred as functional pain. This means there is no organic cause or damage of the abdominal organs that may be producing pain.

Several other conditions must be excluded before conclusion of functional abdominal pain. Constipation, lactose intolerance, parasitic infections are some common problems in children. If the child is emotionally stressed and disturbed he may complain of functional pain in his tummy.

Symptoms Of Functional Abdominal Pain

The symptoms of functional pain in abdomen may vary from time to time.

It may not be same all the time. Most functional pain is sudden in onset. The pain is located usually around the umbilicus. Functional pain also disappears suddenly. Certain children may experience vomiting, nausea, fullness in abdomen, along with such pain.

Some children may experience bowel movement as soon as pain starts. There may also be change in bowel movement in some children. There may be alternate diarrhea and constipation. If this type of pain occurs frequently, the child may remain malnourished.

Treatment Of Functional Abdominal Pain In Childhood

The goal of treatment is to improve the symptoms so that the child returns back to his normal routine in school as well as at home.

Following treatment is helpful:

  • The child needs reassurance that the pain that he experiences is not cause for some serious medical concern. This may often help the child to understand and he finds improvement in his pain.
  • The child must eat vegetables and increase the intake of fiber containing foods. Parents must take care that the child does not eat foods that are known to be gastric irritants. Child should avoid colas, chocolate, spicy food.
  • Stress at home and school must be addressed. Parents and teachers often are unaware that stressors at home can contribute functional pain in abdomen.
  • Medicines especially antispasmodic are beneficial to decrease abnormal contractions of intestinal tract.