Standard colonoscopy refers to the visual inspection of the large intestine and rectum with the help of a flexible video camera. Though the procedure is quite safe, about 5-10% people end up experiencing abdominal discomfort after a colonoscopy. This discomfort is not very serious and usually goes away on its own. In rare cases, the abdominal pain indicates something serious, especially if you have persistent pain after the procedure.
Causes of Pain After Colonoscopy
The abdominal discomfort you usually experience after a colonoscopy does not indicate anything serious, but you should see your doctor if your pain persists or become worse with time.
1. Trapped Gas
Most people experience abdominal pain after a colonoscopy when they have trapped gas. The procedure involves inflating the bowel with the help of the colonoscope, but sometimes, not all of the air is suctioned out after the completion of the exam. You experience pain when the colon contracts to get rid of the gas. Talk to your doctor and follow their advice to relieve your pain.
2. Tearing of the Colon
The pain you experience could be the result of any tears that happen when your surgeon bends and pushes the colonoscope through intestine. The tears usually occur behind the lens, so they are not visible to the camera. Your pain is likely to become worse when bowel contents leak through the tear. The condition usually requires immediate medical attention. Surgery may be needed to correct the problem.
3. Perforation of the Colon
It is possible to sustain an injury with the leading end of the scope. The colon may be perforated because of the scope hurting the intestinal wall. There may even be a hole caused by the removal of a polyp. It is important to treat perforations immediately. When they go unnoticed, they cause severe pain, especially when bowel contents begin leaking through the perforation. You usually require surgery to fix the issue.
4. Injuries Outside the Colon
Since the colon is attached to other organs, like the liver and spleen, it is possible to hurt these organs during the exam. It happens when the scope pulls on those attachments. This may cause tearing of those organs and you may experience abdominal pain with bleeding. There may be other symptoms as well, including dizziness, palpitations, and fainting. You may require surgery to correct the problem.
What to Do
It is important to inform your doctor about your pain and any other symptoms you may be experiencing. This will help them to evaluate your condition in a better way. You should also tell your doctor if you have the following problems along with pain after colonoscopy:
- Fever higher than 101
- Bloating and abdominal distention
- Severe abdominal pain
- Black, tarry stools
- Severe chest pain
Here are some other things to keep in mind when dealing with abdominal pain after colonoscopy:
1. Follow Your Doctor's Advice
You should always follow whatever instructions your doctor has given. You need to take your medicines on time and as prescribed by your primary healthcare provider. And it is important to inform them of any vitamins, medicines, or herbs you may already be taking.
You may have to take pain relievers to control your abdominal pain. Ask your doctor how to take the medicine and how much. It is usually important to take your medicine at the onset of your pain – do not wait until your pain becomes worse. Be very careful about what you do after taking pain medicine because it can make you sleepy or dizzy.
2. Ask About Follow-Up Visits
For continuing treatments, care, and home services, you should always ask for more info. Ask them how long you have to wait to get the results of your procedure. Be clear about when to go for follow-up visits. Never skip any appointments to avoid dealing with complications.
3. Take Steps to Avoid Constipation
- Your doctor is likely to give you stool softeners to help prevent constipation. These medicines make it a bit easier to have a bowel movement.
- You can also prevent constipation by taking extra liquids, eating high-fiber foods, and doing exercise regularly.
- Drink plenty of water and include prune juice in your diet to prevent constipation.
- You should also exercise regularly to keep your digestive system functioning.
4. Pay Attention to Your Diet
- Do not change your diet suddenly. Eat soft foods first, such as jello, soups, pudding, etc., and drink sips of water after the procedure.
- Do not eat fresh veggies or fruits, and avoid high fat, spicy, or hot foods the day of your procedure.
- Eat healthy foods to improve your overall health. Ensure that your diet includes whole-grain bread, rice, cereal, and pasta. Eat more fruits and veggies, including orange and dark green veggies. Dairy products such as yogurt, low-fat milk, and cheese are also important. Be sure to choose protein sources carefully – you should go for lean beef, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and nuts.
5. Increase Your Intake of Liquids
You should drink about 9-13 8oz cups of liquid every day. Drinking plenty of water is always the best choice, but you should also drink milk and juice. Soup, coffee, and fruit juices also help keep you hydrated. Be sure to ask your doctor about how much liquid you should drink regularly.
6. Additional Tips
Along with working with your doctor and following their advice, you can also try some other tips to avoid having pain after colonoscopy. For instance:
- Avoid operating machinery or driving when you have taken pain relievers.
- Avoid any heavy lifting and straining after the procedure.
- Do not feel concerned if you expel air from your rectum – it is quite normal after the procedure.
- It is also normal to not have a bowel movement for a couple of days after the procedure.
- Talk to your doctor before resuming your blood thinner.