Functional Abdominal Pain Child



Functional abdominal pain is likely caused by many factors, such as:

  • Increased sensitivity to pressure from food and gas on the walls of the intestine
  • Problems with how the bowels work
  • Mental health problems, such as emotional stress
  • Infections
The Intestines
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Risk Factors

Some things that may raise the risk of functional abdominal pain are:

  • A history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Stressful life events, such as being in the hospital or loss of a parent's job
  • Depression or anxiety in the child or parent
  • A parent with a history of gastrointestinal problems



Symptoms vary from child to child. Pain may come and go or be steady. It may appear suddenly or slowly get worse over time.

Problems may be:

  • Pain near the belly button or anywhere in the belly
  • A burning feeling under the breastbone that is not from eating
  • A feeling of fullness after a few bites of food
  • Pain after bowel movements


The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to suspect the diagnosis.

Stool tests will be done to rule out other problems. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.



Functional abdominal pain will often go away with time. The goal of treatment is to find and manage triggers. The overall goal is to return a child to normal activity. Options are:


Emotions and stress can trigger abdominal pain or make it worse. Therapy can help a child manage stress and better cope with pain.


Medicine may be used to ease symptoms. Options are:

  • Acid reducers
  • Intestinal muscle relaxers
  • Bulk laxatives or medicine to stop diarrhea
  • Probiotics to increase healthy bacteria
  • Antidepressants


There are no known methods to prevent functional abdominal pain.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.