Abdominal pain commonly happens with IBS, but researchers aren’t sure about the exact cause.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long-term gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that affects the stomach and intestines. It causes a change in bowel function that may lead to stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation.

More than 35 million people in the United States have IBS. You may have an increased chance of developing IBS if you have:

  • someone in your family with the condition
  • gone through childhood abuse, trauma, or stressful events
  • have a serious infection in your GI tract

Healthcare professionals can help provide a diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment based on your symptoms.

Let’s discuss IBS abdominal pain in more detail and talk about other symptoms and conditions that may cause pain.

Abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of IBS, but researchers don’t know the exact cause. There may be different possibilities.

Some researchers say that fast intestinal contractions may cause pain or rapid bowel movements, as the intestines do not have enough time to absorb water.

With IBS, your gut may be more sensitive. Intestinal contractions may make you more prone to experiencing pain or discomfort than people without the condition.

Other factors that may trigger IBS symptoms include:

Research from 2021 suggests that stress can worsen IBS symptoms.

When you feel stressed, your muscles get tense to protect your body from pain or injuries. Long-term stress can make your muscles feel more alert to stressful situations, and they may also feel tense most of the time. This may make you more prone to developing stress-related conditions.

IBS stomach pain may feel as if you have spasms, discomfort, or dull aching. Bowel movements can sometimes improve symptoms, but some people do not experience relief at all.

You may develop abdominal pain after eating foods that contain gluten or lactose.

IBS can cause pain in an area of your abdomen, but it mainly affects the lower part. This may improve after having a bowel movement.

Some people feel bloated after eating and develop upper abdominal pain.

IBS symptoms can come and go, but these may vary from person to person. Pain can last for days, but it can sometimes take months to improve.

IBS seems to affect more women than men, and they are more likely to experience more symptoms while menstruating.

Other symptoms that IBS can cause include:

  • low energy levels
  • back pain
  • nausea
  • frequent urination
  • fatigue

If you have stomach pain or constipation, your doctor may perform a blood test, an X-ray, colonoscopy, or an endoscopy to check for other conditions that may cause symptoms similar to IBS. These may include:

You may consider seeing a doctor if you’re experiencing IBS symptoms. A doctor can determine the cause that may be triggering your flare-ups.

It may also help to get urgent medical care if you:

There’s no cure for IBS, but healthcare professionals may recommend the following to help relieve stomach pain:

You may also have to manage stressful situations, as these can cause or worsen IBS abdominal pain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides some tips:

  • avoiding eating foods that contain salt or added sugar
  • engaging in a regular sleep cycle
  • exercising for 20 to 30 minutes per day
  • quitting smoking, if you smoke (this can be difficult, but a doctor can help build a cessation plan that works for you)
  • joining a support group

IBS is a chronic condition that causes abdominal pain. People can also have bloating, diarrhea, and a change in their bowel movements.

Researchers do not know why abdominal pain appears, but it may happen if someone feels stressed or eats food that contains gluten.

Exercising, taking antidepressant medications, and increasing your fiber intake may help relieve pain and constipation.