Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Functional Abdominal Pain—Child

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Functional Abdominal Pain—Child

(Centrally mediated abdominal pain syndrome, CAPS, Visceral hypersensitivity)


Functional abdominal pain is either:

  • Pain one or more times a week for two months
  • Continuous pain for two months

The pain often gets in the way of daily activities and attending school.


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.

nucleus fact sheet imagehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=25022502si2200.jpgThe IntestinesNULLjpgThe IntestinesNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si2200.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.23NULL2002-10-012553912502_882155Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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:


There are no known methods to prevent functional abdominal pain.


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


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




  • Functional abdominal pain in children. American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: https://gi.org/topics/functional-abdominal-pain-in-children.
  • Functional abdominal pain in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/functional-abdominal-pain-in-children.
  • Functional abdominal pain syndrome. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders website. Available at: https://www.iffgd.org/lower-gi-disorders/functional-abdominal-pain-syndrome.html.


  • Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated:

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.