Recurrent abdominal pain, medical intervention, and biofeedback: what happened to the biopsychosocial model?

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2006 Jun;31(2):155-65. doi: 10.1007/s10484-006-9016-4.


Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) is a significant and common problem among pediatric populations. Based on results from randomized controlled trials there are no established efficacious treatments for this disorder. Biofeedback (BFB) and other psychological treatments offer logically appealing alternatives or adjuncts to medical interventions and there is some evidence to support their use. This paper presents a typical case of RAP that exemplifies how the lack of integration of the biopsychosocial model may result in less than optimal treatment. Specifically, it demonstrates that the patient was exposed to potentially risky treatments that lack evidence to support their use and were not beneficial. Although there was evidence of psychological involvement early in the treatment, this was only attended to following numerous medical trials and exploratory surgery over three years. The patient was finally referred for BFB and during a course of seven sessions over five months that variously included heart rate variability and skin temperature feedback along with extensive home practice of paced breathing and hand warming the patient achieved significant symptom reduction and improved coping abilities. This case vividly illustrates the need for multidisciplinary collaboration and full implementation and integration of the biopsychosocial model of health and illness.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / diagnosis
  • Abdominal Pain / therapy*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Biofeedback, Psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Skin Temperature / physiology
  • Vomiting / complications