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Imagery Found Great for Kids with Functional Tummy Pain

26 Oct

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill developed and tested a user-friendly, inexpensive, home-based, guided imagery audio protocol for children with functional abdominal pain and found it much more effective than treatment as usual.

Thirty-four children, 6 to 15 years of age, with a physician diagnosis of functional abdominal pain, were assigned randomly to receive 2 months of standard medical care with or without home-based, guided imagery treatment.

Children who received only standard medical care initially received guided imagery treatment after 2 months. Children were monitored for 6 months after completion of guided imagery treatment.

Subjects found the treatment materials self-explanatory, enjoyable, and easy to understand and use. The compliance rate was high at 98.5%.

In an intention-to-treat analysis, 63.1% of children in the guided imagery treatment group were treatment responders, compared with 26.7% in the standard medical care-only group (P = .03; number needed to treat: 3). Per-protocol analysis showed similar results (73.3% vs 28.6% responders).

Additionally, when the children in the standard medical care group subsequently received guided imagery treatment, 61.5% became treatment responders. Positive effects were maintained for 6 months (62.5% responders).

The investigators concluded that guided imagery treatment plus medical care was superior to standard medical care only for the treatment of abdominal pain, and treatment effects were sustained over a long period post-treatment.

Citation:  van Tilburg MA, Chitkara DK, Palsson OS, Turner M, Blois-Martin N, Ulshen M, Whitehead WE. Audio- Recorded Guided Imagery Treatment Reduces Functional Abdominal Pain in Children: A Pilot Study.  Pediatrics. 2009 Oct 12. [Epub ahead of print.]

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award