Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often causes pain, which may worsen before or during a bowel movement. The pain may feel similar to abdominal cramps. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.

IBS is a group of symptoms that occur together. They include abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements.

About 3 out of 4 people with IBS have continuous or ongoing pain. People also often describe their pain level as determining their condition’s severity.

This article reviews IBS pain, how it may feel, its causes, and more.

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According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDKD), IBS can cause pain and changes in a person’s bowel movements.

Pain often occurs when a person has a bowel movement. Changes in bowel movements may include diarrhea, constipation, or both.

Other symptoms can include:

Symptoms typically occur for 3 or more months. People with a menstrual cycle may experience worsening symptoms during this part of the month.

Learn more about the symptoms of IBS.

IBS pain may present as abdominal cramping. It often worsens during bowel movements and typically occurs in the lower abdomen. Pain may worsen after eating and ease after a bowel movement.

People with IBS may describe their stomach pain as:

Learn more about common causes of abdominal pain.

A person may also feel:

Experts are not sure exactly what causes IBS. However, it likely occurs due to a combination of factors that may vary between people with the condition.

One theory is that functional gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS may occur due to a miscommunication or problem with the communication between the gut and the brain. The issue can cause food to move too quickly or slowly through a person’s system, resulting in IBS symptoms.

Other possible causes or risk factors for IBS may include:

Treatment cannot cure IBS. Instead, it focuses on easing the symptoms a person experiences. A doctor may recommend one or more of the following therapies to help with IBS symptoms:

Learn more about treatment options for IBS.

Home remedies

A healthcare professional may recommend some steps a person can take at home to help manage IBS symptoms. These can include:

Several conditions can affect a person’s digestive tract.

One common condition is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD can cause similar symptoms, including pain and loose stool.

However, unlike IBS, IBD is an autoimmune disease associated with systemic inflammation that damages the digestive tract over time. Left untreated, IBD can worsen, while IBS does not cause worsening symptoms with or without treatment.

Other conditions that have similar symptoms to IBS include:

A person who experiences pain combined with diarrhea or constipation for 3 or more months should talk with a healthcare professional, as they may have IBS.

A person undergoing IBS treatments and making lifestyle changes may want to speak with a healthcare professional if their symptoms worsen or do not ease with treatment. A doctor may be able to recommend different therapies that may work better for them.

If a person has another underlying condition, such as depression or anxiety, they should regularly work with a therapist or doctor for their treatment.

Learn more about how to manage IBS.

IBS has links with abdominal pain and changes in a person’s bowel movements. A person may experience diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both.

People typically experience pain when they have a bowel movement, often in the lower abdomen.

There is no cure for IBS. However, treatments can help a person manage symptoms. Treatments may include medications and lifestyle changes along with other therapies, such as CBT.

Several conditions can cause similar symptoms, so a person should consider talking with a healthcare professional for a diagnosis.