Pain from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be mild to severe and can vary. Medications, relaxation techniques, and massage may help reduce pain.
IBS is a
Abdominal pain related to bowel movements is one of the main symptoms of IBS. There is no medically approved method for relieving IBS pain instantly. Sometimes, pain can reduce when a person has a bowel movement.
The following sections describe medications and home remedies that may help reduce IBS pain.
According to a 2020 review of IBS management, several medications can help to reduce pain in people with IBS.
First-line treatments for diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) are antispasmodics, which can reduce abdominal cramping. Useful antispasmodics include hyoscine and peppermint oil. If these do not work, doctors may recommend tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as these can have the same effect.
By reducing cramping, these medications can improve IBS pain.
For constipation-predominant IBS, laxatives and simethicone can be helpful in reducing abdominal pain from bloating and constipation.
Individuals with IBS may find that some over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications help with IBS-related pain. However, many traditional pain medications are unlikely to improve IBS pain. They might also worsen other symptoms, like constipation and diarrhea. These medications include:
People may wish to try OTC pain relief medications and stop using them if their symptoms worsen.
Applying heat to the abdomen could reduce IBS pain by helping the abdominal muscles relax. Some ways of applying heat to the abdomen include:
- using a heat pack or heating pad
- using a hot water bottle
- taking a hot shower or bath
Drinking warm beverages may ease IBS pain, although there is no scientific evidence to support this. People could try the following warm drinks:
- herbal tea, such as ginger or peppermint
- water with citrus fruit
- plain warm water
It is best to drink warm rather than hot drinks and avoid those containing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
Read about the best teas to drink for IBS.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that gentle abdominal massage may alleviate IBS pain by providing a soothing sensation and helping an individual feel more relaxed.
Massage can involve lightly moving the hands on the abdomen in a circular motion. It is important not to press too hard, as this may worsen IBS pain.
Read about 18 ways to reduce bloating.
Anxiety and stress can trigger and worsen IBS symptoms, including IBS pain. For this reason, relaxation techniques may help to manage IBS pain by reducing stress and anxiety. Relaxation techniques include:
According to the
Read about complementary therapies for IBS.
People with IBS may describe their abdominal pain in different ways, including:
- dull and constant
People can experience IBS pain differently at different times.
According to a
- spicy foods
- eating foods high in gluten
- eating foods high in FODMAPs
The following non-diet-related factors may trigger IBS:
Avoiding these triggers may help individuals to avoid the worst of IBS pain.
People can discuss their IBS pain with a doctor, who can suggest suitable treatments. If people experience the following symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention:
People with IBS can experience mild to severe abdominal pain. Pain may worsen in response to dietary triggers, such as alcohol and caffeine, or nondietary triggers, such as stress. Avoiding triggers may minimize the risk of IBS-related pain. However, this is not always possible.
When someone does have IBS pain, medications may help. OTC pain relief may be useful for some people but can worsen some IBS symptoms.
Home remedies for IBS pain include applying heat to the abdomen, abdominal massage, and relaxation techniques, such as yoga and tai chi.