A colonoscopy screening is more than a simple medical examination. It’s a vital tool in the early detection and treatment of conditions such as colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. This crucial examination plays a pivotal role in identifying or warding off colorectal cancer, as there are over 1,800 colorectal cancer diagnoses in Singapore every year.
But what happens once the procedure is over? Is there abdominal pain after a colonoscopy? And how do you relieve stomach pain after? These are some of the most common questions post-colonoscopy.
In this blog post, we will explore the causes of abdominal pain after a colonoscopy and how to relieve it with simple home remedies and over-the-counter solutions.
From restful strategies to gentle movements and dietary pointers to warning signs, we’ll guide you through these often overlooked recovery stages. We will also discuss when you should see a doctor if your pain does not improve or if you experience any signs of complications.
Causes Of Abdominal Pain After A Colonoscopy
Abdominal discomfort post-colonoscopy can be a common occurrence. Many patients associate this abdominal pain after colonoscopy with various aspects of the procedure.
Air Inflation During The Procedure
During a colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope into your rectum and up into your colon. The colonoscope has a tiny camera and a light at its tip that allows the doctor to see the inside of your colon on a monitor.
The doctor inflates your colon with air or carbon dioxide to get a clearer view, especially during a screening colonoscopy.
This inflation can cause abdominal distension and discomfort or pressure during or after the procedure. The air or gas can also make you feel bloated or cause pain until it passes out of your system, often manifested as passing gas.
Biopsy Or Removal Of Polyps
Sometimes, during the colonoscopy, the doctor might take a tissue sample (biopsy) from your colon for further testing, especially if there’s suspicion of colorectal cancer. They may also remove growths (polyps) that could be precancerous or cancerous. This can lead to bleeding or irritation in your colon, resulting in abdominal pain or cramps.
Body’s Response To The Procedure
A colonoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure, and while it’s safe for most patients, there’s a risk of colonoscopy complications. The procedure can trigger your body’s natural inflammatory response, potentially indicative of conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.
This might worsen the abdominal pain post-procedure, swelling, or soreness in your colon or abdomen. A rare complication includes splenic injury, which, though uncommon, should be noted. Some people might also react to sedatives or anaesthesia, leading to nausea or drowsiness.
Remedies For Abdominal Pain
For most patients, abdominal pain sensation after a colonoscopy is often mild and temporary. Thankfully, this pain can be alleviated with a few straightforward home remedies. Here are some trusted methods to help ease your discomfort:
1. Passing Gas
One common source of abdominal discomfort after a colonoscopy is the inflation of the colon with air during the procedure. This inflation can cause sensations of feeling bloated and even pain in the abdomen. Encouraging the passing of gas can relieve this pressure. Here’s how to relieve this particular type of abdominal pain after a colonoscopy:
Gentle movement and light physical activity can aid the passing gas. Walking or pacing for a few minutes after the procedure can help move the trapped wind through the large bowel and also increase circulation. Though, you should remember not to over exert yourself.
Lying On Your Side
Sometimes, lying on one side, particularly the left side, can help release trapped wind. This position encourages the gas to move through the colon and exit through the back passage.
2. Hydration And Eating Soft Foods
To alleviate stomach pain, focusing on hydration and specific dietary choices can make a huge difference. Here are some steps that can guide you can follow if you’re experiencing pain after a colonoscopy:
Sipping Clear Or Warm Liquids
After the procedure, your digestive system may be sensitive. Certain herbal teas have been known to comfort the stomach and digestive tract. Ginger tea, for instance, can mitigate nausea and inflammation, Peppermint tea can ease muscle tension and alleviate gas, while chamomile tea is famous for its calming properties, minimising nerve agitation and spasms. Aside from tea you may also opt for broth or warm water with honey.
Eating Soft And Easily Digestible Foods
Your bowel may need some time to recover, especially after the bowel preparation required for a colonoscopy. Soft foods like mashed potatoes, bananas, or yoghurt can soothe the system as it doesn’t have to work as hard.
Avoid Heavy Or Spicy Foods
Returning to your usual diet immediately is not advised. To further aid your digestive system, you should avoid certain foods that are heavy, fatty, or spicy, as they can potentially irritate it.
These foods may induce the production of gas, and lead to further pain or irregular bowel movement. These may also increase discomfort, nausea, or vomiting. It’s best to consult with your doctor for dietary guidelines.
3. Use A Warm Bath Or Heating Pad
Applying warmth, whether through a warm bath or a heating pad, has been a time-tested remedy for various types of pain, including abdominal discomfort. Here’s how applying warmth to the abdomen might be an accessible and soothing solution for those looking to relieve these symptoms:
The Soothing Effect Of Warmth
Warmth can often have a relaxing effect on the muscles of the abdomen. A warm towel or heating pad on the abdominal area can significantly help relax the muscles, potentially reducing pain. You can apply this method for 15 to 20 minutes, repeating it twice daily. Ensure the warmth is gentle to the skin so you don’t experience any burns.
Applying warmth for a few minutes to an hour can be beneficial. Be mindful of the duration, as prolonged exposure to heat might have adverse effects, mainly if there’s an unusual complication such as bleeding or splenic injuries.
4. Ensure You Get Enough Rest
The recovery phase following a colonoscopy is crucial in ensuring the patient bounces back from the procedure. At this time you should prioritise your comfort and overall health.
Importance Of Rest
After undergoing a colonoscopy, resting is not merely a recommendation but a crucial part of recovery. It allows the body to heal and can significantly reduce abdominal pain and other symptoms that might occur. The quality of your rest will significantly affect how well you recover. So, during this time don’t be reluctant to give your body the time it deserves.
Duration Of Rest
The required rest duration might differ among patients, but taking it easy for the first few hours is generally advised. Your doctor might have specific instructions based on your health condition, especially if you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease or colorectal cancer.
Avoid Strenuous Activities
Strenuous activities may include heavy lifting and vigorous exercises. This could lead to an unusual complication such as splenic trauma or rupture. Adhering to the guidelines in the legal documents provided before the procedure is paramount.
Walking And Light Exercise
We’ve already mentioned that gentle movement, such as walking, can be beneficial in passing gas. But, it also stimulates the intestines, increases blood flow, and might ease the sensation of feeling bloated.
As always, be cautious in over exerting yourself to avoid splenic injuries or other complications. Some patients find mild stretching or gentle yoga poses helpful. Again, these should be done under guidance, particularly if there’s a history of splenic capsule issues or other underlying medical conditions.
5. Over-The-Counter Solutions
When grappling with abdominal pain after a colonoscopy, sometimes home remedies might not offer the desired relief. In such scenarios, over-the-counter (OTC) medications are readily available at most pharmacies, and can be the pain relief you are looking for..
Medications containing simethicone can be particularly helpful for those who feel bloated or have the sensation of trapped gas. This compound breaks up gas bubbles in the digestive tract, alleviating discomfort. You should follow the directions listed on the medication label or as your physician prescribes. Popular gas relief medications include brands like Gas-X, Mylanta, and Phazyme.
Mild Pain Relievers
OTC pain relievers containing acetaminophen can be beneficial for tackling mild to moderate pain. Well-known brands in this category include Tylenol, Panadol, and Paracetamol.
However, avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen post-colonoscopy. These can negatively impact the lining of your gastrointestinal tract, elevating the risk factors associated with bleeding or ulcers.
Post-colonoscopy, mainly if antibiotics were administered during the procedure, the balance of your gut flora might be disrupted. Probiotics, which are packed with beneficial bacteria, can aid in restoring this balance, bolstering digestion and immunity, and curbing potential infections or diarrhoea.
Whether it’s through food sources like yoghurt, kefir, or sauerkraut or via supplements, probiotics can play a vital role in your recovery. Always use these as directed on the label or based on your healthcare team’s recommendation.
When Should You Seek Professional Help?
Colonoscopies are routine medical procedures performed to examine the inner lining of the large intestine. While generally considered safe, some individuals may experience discomfort or pain after the procedure. In most cases, these sensations subside quickly, but how do you know when to consult a professional?
Prolonged Or Persistent Pain
If the discomfort continues for more than a few days or worsens, this could indicate a more serious underlying problem. Don’t dismiss persistent pain and severe pain as merely part of the recovery process.
Though unusual complications such as splenic injuries or splenic rupture are rare, it’s always best to consult with a colorectal surgeon to determine the underlying cause of the discomfort.
Symptoms Of Infection
Fever, chills, intense pain, or other signs of infection following a colonoscopy warrant immediate medical attention. Pain is normal, but these symptoms are tell tale signs that your body is reacting to other infections.
A little bleeding might be normal, especially if a polyp was removed or a biopsy was performed. However, a healthcare provider should evaluate significant or persistent bleeding as soon as possible.
Difficulty Breathing Or Swallowing
If you experience difficulty breathing or swallowing, it may be a reaction to the sedatives or anaesthesia used during the procedure.
Noticeable Changes In Bowel Movement
While temporary changes might occur, long-lasting alterations in bowel habits or the inability to pass gas or stools might signal an obstruction or other serious complication.
Conclusion On How To Relieve Stomach Pain After Colonoscopy
From understanding the underlying causes of abdominal pain to implementing well-thought-out strategies to relieve discomfort, recovery from a colonoscopy has both common and unique considerations. We’ve explored lesser-discussed topics, like the potential for splenic trauma and the subtleties of diet and gentle movement.
Whether it’s recognising the warning signs of an uncommon complication or finding solace in a warm bath, these insights can pave the way for a more informed and confident recovery.
However, while this guide provides valuable insights, it’s essential to always consult with a medical professional regarding post-colonoscopy concerns to ensure the safest and most effective recovery.
Thinking about the next steps after considering a colonoscopy? Dr. Leong, an experienced colorectal surgeon, can offer insights about the procedure and its nuances.
From addressing common colorectal concerns to understanding the specifics of the process, engaging with a professional can shed light on any uncertainties you might have.
Frequently Asked Questions On How To Relieve Stomach Pain After Colonoscopy
When Can I Return To My Usual Diet And Activities?
Most patients can begin to reintroduce their usual diet within 24-48 hours after a colonoscopy, starting with easily digestible foods. As for activities, gentle movements are recommended for the first day, and it’s wise to avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercises for at least 2-3 days post-procedure.
However, it’s essential to note that everyone’s recovery is unique, so adhering to your doctor’s specific guidelines and recommendations is crucial.
How Do I Recognise If Something Is Wrong After The Procedure?
While most post-colonoscopy symptoms are normal, severe pain, fever, vomiting, or visible blood in the stool should be taken seriously. These might indicate an underlying issue, such as a perforation or splenic rupture. In such cases, seeking immediate medical help is essential, as prompt intervention can prevent further complications.
How Can I Differentiate Between Normal Discomfort And Serious Complications?
Normal discomfort after a colonoscopy usually feels like bloating or gas and will gradually diminish, especially with the recommended home remedies or over-the-counter solutions.
Serious complications, however, may manifest as severe or acute abdominal pain, persistent bleeding, fever, chills, or symptoms suggesting bowel injuries. If you experience intense pain or any signs that concern you, you must seek medical attention immediately.