Online psychosocial intervention reduces the discomfort of minors with recurrent abdominal pain
Photo: Unsplash / Jude Beck
Ainhoa Sorrosal
This is what is suggested by the conclusions of a study led by UOC researchers, with the cooperation of paediatricians

Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP, or DAR in Catalan) is a type of stomach pain that recurs at least once a month, has no physical cause nor is it caused by any external factor, such as lactose, and interferes with patients' daily lives. It is estimated that 10% of minors aged between 8 and 16 have RAP. The UOC has created an online programme in which children affected by this disorder and their parents learn different techniques, such as relaxation or communication, that have been successful in diminishing the children's discomfort. The preliminary conclusions of the DARWeb project reveal that the children experience improvements in their quality of life and the perception of the problem's severity is attenuated. The study, undertaken by researchers at the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, is supported by prescription from paediatricians.

On the basis of the experience of the families who have completed the programme, the researchers conclude that 100% are very satisfied with the experience. Of the families, 94%state that they have learned relaxation techniques that are very useful, 76% take less notice of the pain, and 53% have noticed a decrease in the discomfort. The quality of life and pain severity scores also improve. Furthermore, the families believe that their overall condition has improved and they have learned to cope with the pain (average score of 9 on a scale from 0 to 10).

The programme, which is an online platform, is being applied to children aged between 9 and 15 with RAP and their families. The website has seven work sessions. Lasting 30-45 minutes, it is recommended to take it once a week. Each session provides guidelines for controlling stress, fear, improving communication, etc. In short, they are instruments that help patients surmount the situations that trigger the stomach pain and get on with their lives.

As regards the timeline, the PSiNET researchers perform a baseline assessment before starting the programme, another after 6 months, a third after one year and a final assessment at the end of the programme, to ascertain the short-, medium- and long-term effects.

The PSiNET group – whose researchers are Rubn Nieto, Eullia Hernndez, Merc Boixads and Imma Beneitez – has developed this research after a preliminary study with a smaller sample. In this second phase, the number of patients monitored is increased. The project, which will end in November 2017, has a cost of 60,500 euros funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. About 70 families with children aged between 9 and 15 referred by their paediatricians have taken part in this study.

The ICTs, an opportunity

The researchers highlight that there are few psychosocial counselling services that are available in a face-to-face format. With online availability of the resources, it is possible to reach a large number of patients with minimum cost.

“The idea was to offer a tool that could benefit the largest possible number of people and, thanks to the website, families from different parts of Spain have been able to enter the programme. We also wanted to make sure that it was initially cost-free", they conclude.

If you know of any interested family, they can contact us at



Photograph of Rubn Nieto Luna

Rubn Nieto Luna

Expert in: Chronic pain research (assessment, risk factors and secondary prevention); development of online interventions for health problems (especially problems involving pain).

Knowledge area: Personality, psychological assessment and treatments, and health and the Internet.

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Photograph of Eullia Hernndez Encuentra

Eullia Hernndez Encuentra

Expert in: ICT and health; personal and professional use of the Internet for health; health promotion through the use of ICT; lifelong developmental psychology (what people are like at different points in their lives).

Knowledge area: Developmental psychology.

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Photograph of Merc Boixads Angls

Merc Boixads Angls

Expert in: Design and analysis of data for research; health and quality of life.

Knowledge area: Behavioural science methodology.

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Imma Beneitez

Expert in:

Knowledge area: Behavioural science methodology.