Functional Abdominal Pain Program

Approximately 10 to 15 percent of school-age children experience functional abdominal pain, also known as intractable abdominal pain. Functional abdominal pain in children is chronic stomach pain that lasts for eight weeks or more and includes symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation or both and can be related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The Boston Children’s Hospital Functional Abdominal Pain Program addresses chronic pain along with other related issues that impact daily activities. Often times it is difficult to determine the root cause of this type of pain, so many children have to see multiple specialists to get to a solution. We have experts that can help.

Our expertise in functional abdominal pain

Boston Children’s Functional Abdominal Pain program is uniquely located within our Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center. We have decades of experience seeing, diagnosis and treating functional abdominal pain and are world-renown for the care we provide and our in-depth research.

Our integrated team of GI doctors, pain specialists, psychologists, dietitians and social workers bring decades of experience and a broader perspective to GI functional issues to address overlapping physical and psychological problems that may be occurring in your child. 

We understand how abdominal pain has a major impact on a child’s functioning and quality of life. We also know there are overlapping physical and psychological conditions, that may be occurring in your child, which cannot be overlooked.

We specialize on the triggers of the pain but most importantly on how to control it. We will look into and beyond the abdominal pain your child may be experiencing to see how it may be related to other conditions that are occurring simultaneously.

Our approach to functional abdominal pain

Your child may have multiple pain problems stemming from heightened sensitivity to light, sound or diet. They may also be suffering from fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression that complicate recovery. Our team will work with you to address all of these concerns and to help your child return to school, activities they enjoy and a more normal life.

Our team will first provide you with a thorough explanation of the nature of the pain and the treatment approach. Our treatment options include:

  • multidisciplinary rehabilitation
  • cognitive behavioral treatments
  • pain control
  • physical therapy
  • nutrition advice
  • treatment of associated symptoms and problems
  • identification and treatment of specific pain triggers
  • reintegration to school

We will take the time to evaluate medical records prior to your appointment, so that we have information to get started on the right course of care and treatment. From your first appointment at Boston Children’s we follow a biopsychosocial model. This approach allows us to thoroughly assess the physiological components and evaluation for the triggers of a child’s pain, while simultaneously acknowledging the role that social and psychological factors may play in the development and maintenance of symptoms over time.

Our team includes a gastroenterologist, nurse practitioner, a pain specialist and a psychologist. We are the only hospital in the country that has a dedicated pain specialist as part of the Motility and Gastrointestinal Disorders Center. Your child or adolescent will be seen by each of these providers during the initial clinic visit. Providers that may be involved in your child’s care are a dietitian, a social worker and a physical therapist. Specialists may also be consulted and may include cardiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists and others. A detailed treatment plan outlining the recommendations from each area will be provided at the end of your appointment.