A Primary Care Approach to Functional Abdominal Pain

Scholl, Jennifer; Allen, Patricia Jackson
May 2007
Pediatric Nursing;May/Jun2007, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p247
Academic Journal
This article reviews the literature related to functional abdominal pain (FAP) in childhood, including the definition, etiology, contributing factors, clinical diagnosis, therapy and management, and associated long-term health effects. FAP is determined when no specific structural, infectious, inflammatory, or biochemical cause can be found in a child with chronic pain. The presence of abdominal pain as an isolated symptom is more suggestive of FAP, whereas multiple symptoms are more likely to be due to an organic or biochemical condition. While the exact cause of FAP is not completely understood, most researchers and clinicians agree that it is of multi-factorial etiology coupled with an altered brain-gut interaction. Children are highly susceptible to influences around them and can experience pain in response to normal childhood feelings and experiences. Psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression are common in both children with FAP and their parents. Children with FAP tend to have low levels of self-directedness, internalize their feelings and worries, and ruminate over issues they cannot control. The biopsychosocial model has proved to be a worthwhile framework for children with FAP, as it recognizes the interaction between social and environmental influences, psychological processes, and the state of the body. Interventions that focus on the child's cognitive processes associated with abdominal pain and the family's response to the pain have increased efficacy over standard education and reassurance. Providing children and families with techniques to use when experiencing pain decreases alterations in normal daily activities and improves long-term health outcomes.


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