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Ulcerative Colitis Pain

Ulcerative Colitis Pain?noresize

One of the key markers of Ulcerative Colitis is pain. However, pain location and severity often differ from person to person. Ulcerative Colitis (UC) pain originates from inflammation in the inner lining of the large intestine and can feel like stabbing pain or cramping in the abdominal area. However, some people with UC also experience pain in other areas of their body, such as their joints. Many people with UC, diagnosed or undiagnosed, assume the pain in their gut and their joints is unrelated since UC is a GI condition. Let’s explore how they’re related.

Cause of UC Pain

Ulcerative Colitis pain is typically caused by a buildup of inflammation in the intestinal lining. This inflammation can become so severe that it causes open sores (ulcers) in the innermost lining of the colon, large intestine or rectum. Many people with UC also experience joint pain, a product of the inflammation spreading throughout the body. Increased pain is often a sign that inflammation is increasing and that your condition is worsening.

Learn more about our approach to Ulcerative Colitis and how to better manage your symptoms.

Characteristics of UC Pain

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

  • Cramping
  • Stabbing
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Painful Spasms
  • “A Charley Horse in your gut”
  • Tightness

UC pain location can also differ from person to person, depending on which part of their colon is most affected. The most common UC pain locations are listed below:

  • Lower-abdominal pain
    • This pain is typically associated with inflammation or ulcers in the colon.
    • Often described as aching, cramping, spasmic pain.
  • Rectum
    • This pain occurs around the rectum and is often caused by irritation with passing bowel movements.
    • Often described as burning, stabbing pain.
  • Joints
    • This pain can occur in large or small joints and even the spine.
    • This is often described as achiness and tightness in the joints.

The link between Ulcerative Colitis and joint pain is not exactly clear, but researchers assume as the immune system overreacts in response to UC, the inflammation becomes systemic and can spread to your joints. Although not all people with UC have joint pain, many find that as their GI symptoms worsen, so does the pain throughout their body. In these situations, it’s important to work with your doctor and dietitian to ensure this is a product of your UC and not a convergent health condition such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Triggers of UC Pain

While UC pain can be managed through diet, there are also many behaviors that can contribute to UC pain.

  • Irregular eating habits
    • Waiting too long to eat after waking up, skipping meals and eating too quickly are all irregular eating habits that can produce inflammation in your gut. People with UC tend to experience less pain when they eat smaller, more frequent meals because this allows their body to more effectively digest and pass food. 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. Stress and GI conditions are a tricky duo because the stress gut connection is very cyclical in nature. Many times, stress causes symptoms and then increased symptoms cause more stress. Having an arsenal of stress-management techniques is crucial to managing any GI condition.
  • Food triggers
    • When UC symptoms are active, you may need to make temporary changes to the foods you’re eating. A Low-fiber, low residue meal plan is recommended to allow your gut to heal. Once you’ve reached a period of being symptom-free, you may slowly reintroduce high fiber foods as long as your symptoms do not return. Read more about how to treat a UC flare.

Although Ulcerative colitis is life-long, that doesn’t mean your UC pain has to be. When UC is well-managed, you can experience long periods of remission and become symptom-free. The key is to modify your approach based on the stage of your condition and learn to listen to your body. If you’re having trouble managing your UC, we recommend working with a dietitian who can help you obtain and sustain remission.

Learn more about our approach to Ulcerative Colitis and how consistent improvements to your diet and nutrition can help you better manage your symptoms.

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