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Functional Abdominal Pain in Children

Sporadic, sharp, dull, or cramping pain in the abdomen is a chronic problem many children face. At times, the discomfort is so severe it can cause a child to double over, cry, become sweaty or look pale. In other instances, it can be subtle, making a child feel generally unwell.

If your child’s pain is not the result of a blockage, inflammation or infection, it is considered functional abdominal pain (also known as intractable abdominal pain). About 10-15% of school-age children experience this condition, either for a short or extended period of time. Functional abdominal pain is often accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, or both, and can be related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s best to talk to your child’s doctor about any symptoms they may be having as they may be a result of a more serious underlying cause.

The SLUCare Physician Group gastroenterology team at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital is specially trained in treating children with chronic abdominal pain and problems of the digestive tract. Our integrated team of doctors, nurses, dieticians, and social workers offer complete care. Through our care we help you understand their condition and help your child stay healthy.

Signs & Symptoms of Functional Abdominal Pain

A child with functional abdominal pain can have mild, moderate and even severe pain. The pain is usually intermittent, below the belly button, and tends to last for at least three months. There are cases where the pain is felt elsewhere, lasting minutes to hours. One of the most common symptoms associated with this condition is the presence of pain one minute and disappearance of pain the next.

This abdominal pain can impact your child’s ability to participate in everyday activities. This effect on their quality of life can seem frustrating and uncertain, but the team at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon can help with that.

Treating Functional Abdominal Pain

Pediatric gastroenterologists specialize in evaluating abdominal pain in children and ruling out the possible causes. We focus on any factors that might activate the pain and develop the right treatment plan to control it. For some children, this may mean changing their diet and stress level. For others, it can be a matter of identifying a specific therapy to address any related problems, such as fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression.

We’ll work closely with you and your child to diagnose the cause of the pain and provide the best treatment option possible. Their treatment might include:

  • Multidisciplinary rehabilitation
  • Cognitive behavioral treatments
  • Pain control
  • Physical therapy
  • Nutrition advice
  • Treatment of associated symptoms and problems

Once treatment begins, we’ll continue to monitor your child’s health to make sure it is working, and adjust any particular therapy if needed.

If you’re child’s recurrent abdominal pain is having a negative effect on their life, don’t delay another minute. Schedule an appointment with the gastroenterology team at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. Our team will work hard to find the root problem of your child’s condition and help them on their way to recovery. Call our team at 314-268-4010 to get started.

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