Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Talk Therapy May Help Kids With Chronic Stomach Pain, Review of Research Suggests

Date:
January 26, 2008
Source:
Center For The Advancement Of Health
Summary:
"My tummy hurts" is one of the most common complaints of childhood. Yet for up to 25 percent of school-age children, ongoing abdominal pain is serious enough to interfere with school, playtime and family life. In most of these cases, there are no medical problems-- and reassurance and support are all the child needs. For children whose pain persists, however, a new review of the research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help.

“My tummy hurts” is one of the most common complaints of childhood. Yet for up to 25 percent of school-age children, ongoing abdominal pain is serious enough to interfere with school, playtime and family life. In most of these cases, there are no medical problems— and reassurance and support are all the child needs.

For children whose pain persists, however, a new review of the research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help.

“The most important finding here is that there seems to be some evidence of benefit of psychosocial interventions in reducing the pain of school-age children with recurrent abdominal pain,” said Angela Heurtas-Ceballos, consultant neonatologist at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in London, and lead review author.

The review examined six studies including 167 children, but only five of the studies had interpretable results that the researchers could use.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

“To my knowledge, this is the most thorough and exhaustive review so far on this topic,” says Charlotte Rask, M.D., a trainee in child psychiatry at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark who was not associated with this review. Rask co-authored an earlier review of the data published in a Danish journal.

“There are surprisingly few randomized controlled trials in this area considering the number of children with this problem,” Rask said.

Because of the small number of patients in the trials and the fact that the control groups included various other treatments, the new review could not quantify how effective CBT is for this condition.

Previous findings indicate that cognitive behavioral therapies help with other types of pain, but the effectiveness of CBT for this condition does not mean that the pain is really “all in the child’s head.”

“In recurrent abdominal pain cases, there is evidence that the pain is real,” said Huertas-Ceballos, adding, however, that, “Although the main organic cause is still not clear, it seems like there is an important mental component.”

In fact, recent research has shown that the gut actually has a “brain” of its own. For example, most of the body’s serotonin (the chemical best known for targeting by Prozac and similar drugs) is in the nerves in the bowels, not the brain. There are more nerve cells in the “gut brain” than in the spinal cord.

Many now believe that bowel disorders relate to problems with this system and its interaction with the brain itself. Such problems could be a factor in some recurrent abdominal pain, which could be a type of “abdominal migraine.” Another possible diagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome. Still, in most cases, there is no known pathology related to the source of the pain.

So how does CBT work for recurrent abdominal pain?

“This technique shows some evidence of benefit mainly because pain eases when the muscle relaxes, and this therapy includes relaxation or distraction techniques,” Huertas-Ceballos said.

In addition, some research finds that parental anxiety has a connection with the development of recurrent abdominal pain. One study found that an important difference between people who seek help for the problem and those who do not was the mother’s concerns about the child’s pain, not its actual intensity or frequency.

Further research found that ongoing maternal anxiety over the condition related to its persistence; in other words, the more worried the mothers were, the longer the child was likely to suffer with the problem.

Consequently, “Working with parents as well as the child may be very important,” Rask said.

In most of the studies reviewed, both parents and children received CBT. In order to prevent the children from focusing on their pain to get extra attention and affection, the clinicians instructed parents to avoid “reinforcing” the pain in this way. Instead, parents learned to give positive attention when the child copes well.

Many affected children worry that the pain means that something is seriously wrong with them — perhaps because of their parents’ anxieties over it. This fear can enhance their pain. In this context, CBT teaches parents to reassure their children and encourages the children to reassure themselves that this pain is not a sign of danger or injury. The kids also learn relaxation techniques and ways of distracting themselves when it occurs.

Said Huertas-Ceballos, “Different components are used to achieve change, such as teaching the child pain management techniques and training the parents to be ‘coaches,’” who remind them to use these tactics when the pain occurs.”

Reference: Heurtas-Ceballos A, et al. Psychosocial interventions for recurrent abdominal pain (RAS) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in childhood (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Center For The Advancement Of Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Center For The Advancement Of Health. "Talk Therapy May Help Kids With Chronic Stomach Pain, Review of Research Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124203443.htm>.
Center For The Advancement Of Health. (2008, January 26). Talk Therapy May Help Kids With Chronic Stomach Pain, Review of Research Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124203443.htm
Center For The Advancement Of Health. "Talk Therapy May Help Kids With Chronic Stomach Pain, Review of Research Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124203443.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Companies Ramp Up Wellness to Lower Health Costs

Companies Ramp Up Wellness to Lower Health Costs

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) That little voice telling you to exercise, get in shape and get healthy is probably coming from your boss. More companies are beefing up wellness programs to try and cut down their health care costs. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) Scientists say for the extremely elderly, their stem cells might reach a state of exhaustion. This could limit one's life span. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Wants To Ban Sales Of E-Cigarettes To Minors

FDA Wants To Ban Sales Of E-Cigarettes To Minors

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) The Food and Drug Administration wants to crack down on the use of e-cigarettes, banning the sale of the product to minors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins