A woman dives into a pool of water. The part of her body that is submerged has a soothing pattern of wavy lines. The part of her body exposed to the air has a jagged zigzag line on it.

IBS and Chronic Pain

When I first developed IBS, I was no stranger to issues of pain in my body. As a child, I often had what some refer to as "growing pains" – a strong ache in my legs that kept me up at night and sometimes brought me to tears. I would later discover having "growing pains" a lot as a child is indicative of the connective tissue disease Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which I was only diagnosed with a few years ago. I also have endometriosis, and started menstruating when I was quite young (9 going on 10), so had been experiencing painful periods for nearly a decade by the time I also started having IBS symptoms.

Pain, IBS, and other conditions

Many people think that those who have IBS may only experience discomfort or even pain when they having or about to have a bowel movement. Yet, those of us afflicted with the syndrome understand that IBS is often accompanied by abdominal pain that endures even when we're not having an outright flare or in need of a toilet. Many of us with IBS are also more prone to other disorders and illnesses associated with pain.

As I've already discussed in previous posts, those with IBS are also much more likely to have fibromyalgia and Ehlers Danlos Syndrom, both diagnoses that are usually defined by widespread pain throughout the body.

When I first developed and was diagnosed with IBS, while it wasn't unusual for me to have pain in other parts of my body, it was sporadic and not always so severe. It wasn't until I was well into my 30s that widespread bodily pain became my daily reality.

Does IBS make the pain worse, and vice versa?

While IBS may not be the reason or culprit for my evolution into someone who now lives with chronic pain, it definitely plays some sort of role and overlaps in these changes in my body as I grow older. Because when the body experiences pain on a continuous basis, certain changes occur in the brain and nervous system that begin amplifying those pain signals and interpreting signals elsewhere in the body as pain as well.

This accounts for the phenomenon of how a person may have an illness or injury but how even after that initial diagnosis is cured or healed, the pain can endure. It also is why sometimes a person may have an injury in one part of the body, but over time pain can spread to other parts of the body as well.

I have no doubt, that experiencing such severe and frequent bouts of abdominal pain due to endometriosis and IBS set the stage for sensitizing my body for pain in other areas. That is why I think it helps to employ treatments that help with my general chronic pain as I believe these have added benefits specific to IBS. Engaging in light exercise (like walking and swimming), deep breathing rituals, gentle stretching, etc., can keep my overall pain in line and with it, my IBS.

How about you? Do you have chronic pain and if so, how do you think it affects your IBS and vice versa? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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