Functional Abdominal Pain | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is functional abdominal pain diagnosed?

Functional abdominal pain can be difficult to diagnose because it is not a symptom of another condition - the pain itself is the condition. Diagnosis typically includes a systematic evaluation of the child to understand what triggers the pain.

Most children with functional abdominal pain do not require medical testing, but when necessary, tests may include:

  • blood, urine and stool tests
  • abdominal X-ray
  • abdominal ultrasound
  • endoscopy/colonoscopy - involves the use of a thin, lighted tube placed through the nose or mouth into the esophagus to "see" inside the esophagus
  • CT scan: A non-invasive procedure that uses X-ray equipment and powerful computers to create detailed, cross-sectional images

How is functional abdominal pain treated?

If doctors diagnose an underlying cause, treatment will involve managing the specific condition.

In many cases, doctors are unable to identify a specific cause for functional abdominal pain. In such cases, they focus on support and education to enable the child to have the best possible quality of life. Treatment may address pain triggers, for instance, and how to control them. If the child is suffering from multiple overlapping problems, like heightened sensitivity to light, insomnia and anxiety, clinicians may take an interdisciplinary approach to alleviating the symptoms.

The treatment plan may include one or several of the following:

  • pain control
  • physical therapy
  • nutrition advice and dietary changes
  • identification and treatment of specific pain triggers
  • cognitive behavioral treatments
  • treatment of associated symptoms and problems
  • reintegration into school and other activities