According to a new study, children who would get tummy aches often may get more relief when they use their imagination to feel better.
This study was published in the November edition of the Pediatrics, and it suggests that more children with chronic stomachaches got better when their treatments included guided imagery in addition to standard medical care.
Researcher Miranda van Tilburg, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says in a news release, "What is especially exciting about our study is that children can clearly reduce their abdominal pain a lot on their own with guidance from audio recordings, and they get much better results that way than from medical care alone."
The study involved 34 children aged 6-15 who were treated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University Medical Center. The kids’ chronic abdominal pain had no clear medical explanation, but all received standard medical care for them.
Some of the kids got an instructional DVD and CDs containing guided imagery exercises. Some of the kids got theirs two months later, for comparison.
One of the guided imagery programs involved asking kids to imagine that they are "floating comfortably on a big, puffy cloud" and relaxing progressively. Another instructed the kids to imagine a special object melting in their hands "like butter and making the hand shiny and warm," and then put it that hand on their belly, "imagining the light and warmth spreading throughout their belly and making a protective barrier inside that does not let anything irritate the belly."
The children listened to the CDs for eight weeks. At the end of that period, 63 percent of the children who got the guided imagery CDs had had their stomach pains relieved by half, compared to 27 percent of the kids who only received standard medical care.
As for the kids who got their CDs late, 61 percent of them had had at least a 50 percent improvement in their abdominal pain after the eight-week period.
After the treatment, the kids slowly used the CDs less and less, though they were to keep using the guided imagery techniques that they’d learned. Six months later, about 62 percent of the kids who responded to the imagery treatment were still doing well.