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Blog – Pain in IBS

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Professor Lovat
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Doctors spend a lot of time doing tests to diagnose Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But after they have done the ultrasound, colonoscopy and blood tests, do they help you manage the symptoms?

Common Symptoms in IBS

IBS is associated with a large variety of symptoms including:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain and/or bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Altered eating habits

The most common symptoms are abdominal pain associated with a change in toilet habits.

When is it not IBS?

The list above considers some of the more common problems associated with IBS. But if you experience any of the following, you may be suffering from something else. It is then advisable to speak to your doctor or one of our consultants at the London Gastroenterology centre:

  • A fever that is associated with your gastrointestinal symptoms
  • 10%+ weight loss that cannot be explained
  • Blood in your stools
  • Aged 50 years or above
  • Have a first degree relative with gastrointestinal problems such as cancer

The symptoms of constipation and diarrhoea have been previously discussed.

Pain in IBS.

Pain in IBS can arise almost anywhere below the rib cage. It normally arises due to a localised increase in pressure at a particular point along the gut as a result of poorly coordinate muscular contraction of the gut wall. The pain is often associated with a localised tenderness and physical examination can help localise it. A build-up of gas within the gut could also cause a localised (or generalised) increase in pressure and thus pain; this type of pain is often relieved by the passage of wind.

IBS is often associated with food intolerances; if these foods are eaten, the gut wall may release chemicals that contribute to the sensation of pain. The most sensible way to avoid this type of pain is to carefully consider the foods you eat.

Although pain is a physical sensation, it is often associated with a more wide-spread impact on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing; it is often hard to focus on day-to-day tasks effectively and this can lead to tensions in both domestic and work-related relationships. If you feel this is the case, it is really important you speak to a health-care professional who will be able to help you deal with your problems. It is also important to try and focus on positive thoughts and continue enjoying your hobbies; many studies have shown that this can decrease your perception of the pain and hence improve your overall quality of life.

 Reducing the Pain of IBS

There are many ways to minimise pain:

  • Avoid foods that you notice stimulate the sensation of pain. However, you should speak to your doctor before making significant changes to your diet to make sure that you do not become malnourished
  • Avoid taking NSAID painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as these can exacerbate your symptoms. Although paracetamol will usually work effectively, you should consult your doctor if the medication you try does not help
  • Passing wind or passing stools can help relieve the pressure within your gut and may ease the sensation of pain. Don’t hold yourself back. When you need to go to the toilet, go!
  • Applying a hot-water bottle to your abdomen, or the area in which the pain is felt can help relax and tight muscles and reduce the sensation pain. But if you start to notice changes to the skin on your tummy, you may be using the hot water bottle too much. You should then see a doctor.

If you are concerned you have IBS, our consultants at the London Gastroenterology centre would be happy to help you. Why not call us now to book an appointment!  

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