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A pilot study of the use of guided imagery for the treatment of recurrent abdominal pain in children

22 Dec

Researchers at the University of Arizona find that guided imagery and relaxation substantially alleviate recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) that was refractory to conventional treatment in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders.

Researchers at the Department of Pediatrics at the Steele Memorial Children''s Research Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, looked at the effectiveness of relaxation and guided imagery for alleviating recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders.

Ten children with RAP were enrolled in the study after evaluation by a pediatric gastroenterologist. They were trained in relaxation and guided imagery during 4 weekly 50-minute sessions. Pain diaries were completed at 0, 1, and 2 months. Children and parents also completed psychological questionnaires at enrollment.

Although refractory to conventional treatment by their physician and pediatric gastroenterologist, the children experienced a 67% decrease in pain during the therapy (chi-square for trend, p < 0.001). No baseline psychological characteristics impacted the response to therapy.

The small pilot study concludes that use of relaxation along with guided imagery is an effective and safe treatment for childhood RAP.

Citation: Ball TM, Shapiro DE, Monheim CJ, Weydert JA A pilot study of the use of guided imagery for the treatment of recurrent abdominal pain in children. Clinical Pediatrics (Phila). 2003 Jul-Aug;42(6): pp.527-32.
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