Pain Management for IBD Patients
If you are experiencing pain from your disease and have been able to identify the source of the pain, talk to your healthcare provider(s) about what treatments or therapies might work best for you. Different approaches include traditional medications, psychosocial therapies, and complementary therapies.
Some medications may help relieve your IBD-related pain. Always consult your physician before starting medication; they will help you determine which medications, if any, fit best with your individual treatment plan.
Seeking help from a mental health professional
Meeting with a therapist can help you to improve your mental health and to feel more in control of your symptoms, such as pain. It is normal to feel stress, anxiety, or depression when living with IBD. Unfortunately, these can contribute to increased inflammation and worsened symptoms in some people. Your mind and gut are intricately interconnected through the brain-gut axis, making our emotional state and how our gut is functioning related. The simplest way to describe this relationship is when you feel butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous or excited. When the gut is experiencing pain, these same pathways that cause butterflies can amplify pain. Meeting with a psychologist, social worker, or other therapist who understands mind-body treatments can be very helpful for alleviating IBD-related pain.
Two therapies commonly used to treat pain are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Gut Directed Hypnotherapy. Click here for more information on psychosocial therapies.
Complementary therapies for IBD
Some studies have shown that complementary medicine may help to control IBD symptoms, ease pain, contribute to a better quality of life, and improve your mood and general attitude towards your health and well-being. Below are a few examples of therapies that have been researched to specifically help with IBD pain. Always check with your provider prior to trying any complementary therapy.
- Mind-body therapies, which include meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and exercise, have been shown to help improve depression, anxiety, and overall quality of life.
- Light Exercise and Physical Therapy, specifically pelvic floor muscle training and abdominal manipulation can help alleviate painful symptoms such as fecal incontinence (lack of control of bowel movements), urinary urgency, sarcopenia (muscle failure), fatigue, or pelvic pain.
- Medical cannabis, in small studies, has improved IBD symptoms including pain, nausea, and decreased appetite. However, there is there is currently no evidence that medical cannabis can reduce IBD inflammation or improve disease activity. Further research is needed, and underway now, regarding the impact of cannabis on IBD.