My Best Strategies for Dealing with Abdominal Pain

My Best Strategies for Dealing with Abdominal Pain

Everyone who has IBS suffers from abdominal pain, because it’s one of the diagnostic criteria for IBS. This means that the one thing that we all have in common is abdominal pain.

But ‘abdominal pain’ is a general term

Even though we all experience abdominal pain, it can present differently. It might feel like a constant dull ache, like a cramp that squeezes your belly, or a sharp stabbing pain. Or you may experience a combination of these pains.

And then there’s location, which can differ considerably. You may feel it on the left-hand side of your belly, where the last part of the colon holds the bowel movement that’s next due to pass. Or you may feel it higher up in your belly, on the right-hand side, or even in the middle. Or you may feel it everywhere at once.

Lastly, there’s the length of time the pain lasts. It might always be there or it may come in sharp bursts but then leave for a time. Or like the other variations, you may have one type of pain there all the time and another that comes in bursts.

So when you consider all these things, the pain of IBS can actually be very different for each of us.

That’s why there’s no guaranteed way to settle abdominal pain

Because the pain can be quite different from one person to the next, relieving abdominal pain can be rather challenging. And what provides relief one time may not work the next time, since what triggered it matters too.

But after you’ve tried some different strategies, you’ll learn what works best for your abdominal pain. And you’ll learn what works for different types of situations.

Here are some strategies that have worked for me

I have a mixed form of IBS, so I experience both constipation and diarrhea, although thankfully at different times. But the pain I experience also changes based on the type of bowel movement that’s triggered. This means I need different strategies depending on the cause of the pain.

For constipation, I experience a dull ache with occasional sharp stabbing pains. These are the strategies that work best at that time:

  • Heat pack on the abdominal region that’s most sore.
  • Loosening my belt, pants or skirt.
  • Peppermint tea, especially if I’m also very bloated.
  • Not eating unless I’m starving and then keeping meals very small.
  • If the constipation is really bad and giving me nausea and reflux too, I get pain high in the abdomen. Then I’ll loosen my jacket or change my top and also remove my bra.

For diarrhea, I get sharp stabbing pains that can drive me to the floor, which later turns into hours of cramping. This is how I cope:

  • At first, all I can do is wait for a bowel movement, since that’s the only thing that relieves the stabbing pains. While I’m waiting, cradling my belly tightly with my arms can dull the pains slightly.
  • Then after the cramping sets in a couple of hours later, I get relief from eating small meals based on carbohydrates, such as porridge/oatmeal or plain toast. I know this sounds strange, but I think it works because my gut is empty after passing so much so fast, and filling it up buffers the muscular cramping. Maybe I’m wrong on the mechanism, but I know it works for me.
  • But nothing ever fixes the cramping completely, so the only solution is to sleep or find a good distraction, so I end up in bed or on the couch.

What about painkillers? They may help temporarily, but my belly doesn’t like them and they tend to trigger symptoms again later on. Because of that, I avoid painkillers and instead do what I can to avoid triggering the abdominal pain in the first place.

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.

Comments

View Comments (2)
  • nlpixie
    1 year ago

    Hi Glenda,

    This is such good advice, and such a good description of how the pain changes. It was something I struggled with when describing the pain to my doctors.

    I have a couple of other things to add to your list of possible releif from the pain.

    For me, heat packs on the front and back help tremendously and are always my first point for pain relief
    Light walking, pacing helps for the constipation as this seems to help things keep moving Until I get the urge to go.
    When lying in bed, I find lying on my right side rather than left is also a big help. When I am in mid attack, it is just too painful to lie on my back or left side.

    Hope these other ideas help someone else.

  • Glenda Bishop, RNutr PhD author
    1 year ago

    Hi nlpixie,

    These are really great tips you’ve added.

    I find that I sometimes need heat packs on my back too, as well as the abdomen. And gentle walking can also help when I’m constipated too. When it comes to sleeping, for me it depends which type of symptoms are triggered as to how I sleep the best. Sometimes I can only handle being on one side and other times, I find that being on my back is best. It seems to depend on where the bloating and build up is happening the most. But I definitely agree that it’s worth trying different sleeping positions to see if you can get relief.

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