IBS Pain

IBS Pain?noresize

Many people with IBS identify pain as one of their worst symptoms. However, pain location and severity often differ from person to person. IBS pain originates in your internal organs but is not caused by any structural abnormalities. This means that the pain people experience with IBS (although very real) does not appear on imaging tests. So where does IBS pain come from?

Cause of IBS Pain

People with IBS may have “visceral hypersensitivity” . This means that the pain receptors in the intestines react more severely to normal stimulants. For example, normal gas or stool levels in the gut can cause a person with IBS to experience abnormally high amounts of pain. Over time, continuous pain results in a phenomenon called “sensitization”, wherein the brain enters a state of heightened awareness that causes every small sensation to feel excessively painful. Therefore, people with IBS often experience chronic, long-term pain.

Characteristics of IBS Pain

Each person perceives pain differently, and thus describes their pain in different ways. We list common pain descriptors below:

  • Sharp
  • Stabbing
  • Aching
  • Painful Spasms
  • Abdominal Tenderness
  • Tightness
  • Uncomfortable

IBS pain location can also differ from person to person, depending on which part of their digestive system is the most sensitive. The most common locations of IBS pain are listed below:

  • Upper-abdominal pain
    • This pain is typically associated with stomach bloating and can become worse after meals
    • Often described as a sharp, stabbing pain
  • Mid-abdominal pain
    • This pain occurs around the midsection, near the bellybutton
    • Often described as achy, spasmic pain
  • Lower-abdominal pain
    • This pain typically occurs in the lower left or right quadrant and is often relieved by defecation
    • This is often described as cramping, aching pain

Triggers of IBS Pain

Triggers of IBS symptoms are not necessarily the same as triggers of IBS pain. While some triggers overlap, there are very specific behaviors that can trigger pain receptors in the gut.

  • Irregular eating habits
    • Waiting too long to eat after waking up, skipping meals, and eating too quickly are all irregular eating habits that can stimulate IBS pain receptors. People with IBS tend to experience less pain when they eat smaller, more frequent meals. It is also beneficial to eat slowly in a relaxed environment.
  • Emotional stress
    • The brain and gut are so interconnected that mental stress can trigger the pain receptors in your gut. Developing stress management techniques is crucial to managing IBS pain.
  • Food triggers
    • Overly spicy or fatty foods can trigger IBS pain by overstimulating the gut. Too much of these foods can also stimulate gastrointestinal motility, which can cause painful bowel movements.

The bottom line is that IBS pain, although common for this condition, can be debilitating.

The good news is that your pain does not have to be permanent. If you are experiencing pain associated with your IBS, we recommend speaking with your doctor or a dietitian who can help better manage your IBS symptoms.

Our IBS Diet main page teaches you how to make simple dietary change to relieve your symptoms and triggers.  Check it out!



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