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IBS Pain Locations


Updated June 30, 2014

Woman with stomachache
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Question: What is a typical and normal location for IBS pain?

My abdominal pain comes and goes and often moves from my left to my right side. Are these typical and normal symptoms and locations for IBS pain?


Yes, it is typical for pain associated with IBS to be quite changeable. Pain can change from day to day, hour to hour and sometimes moment to moment! By definition, IBS pain is usually relieved by a bowel movement. It is common, though, for people to continue to experience tenderness, cramping and aching that is unrelated to the onset of a bowel movement.

IBS pain can occur throughout the abdomen:

  • Upper abdomen pain is often associated with bloating and may worsen after meals.
  • Cramping can occur around the belly button and through the lower abdomen.
  • Lower abdomen pain is most likely to be eased by a bowel movement.

The severity of IBS pain can also be very changeable. Pain can range from mild to unbearable and be constant or intermittent. Common descriptions of IBS pain are:

  • Twingy, crampy
  • Stitch-like
  • Sharp and stabbing
  • Constant abdominal aching
  • Tenderness when abdomen is touched
  • Bloating discomfort

IBS pain can be differentiated from other common digestive disorders by the location of the pain:

  • Pain experienced behind the sternum, after meals, and worsened by bending and lying down is likely to be heartburn.
  • Pain experienced after meals below the sternum, at the top of the abdomen, is likely to be indigestion.

Discuss any concerns about your pain with your doctor. If your symptoms are consistent with the Rome III criteria and you have no red-flag symptoms, you can be assured that your changing pain symptoms are most likely due to IBS.

Essential Reading from Dr. Bolen, Your IBS Guide:


Farhadi, A. “I Have IBS…Now What?!!!SanitizAir, Inc. 2007.

Thompson, G. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Heartburn, Dyspepsia: What’s the Difference?” IFFGD Digestive Health Matters 2008 17:8-11.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.


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