Pain after colonoscopy

A colonoscopy involves passing a thin, flexible, tube-like telescope (colonoscope) into your colon via your back passage (rectum) to examine the lining of your colon. Prior to this procedure, your colon must be clear and empty, so you will be asked to fast and given a strong laxative. A colonoscopy can be uncomfortable but any discomfort is temporary. 

Is a colonoscopy painful?

A colonoscopy is unlikely to be painful. However, you will still be given the option of having a sedative beforehand to help relax you and make you drowsy. The sedative is given directly into a vein. Most people do not remember their colonoscopy due to the effects of the sedative.

After-effects of a colonoscopy

Occasionally a colonoscopy can cause mild abdominal cramping and bloating for around a day after the procedure. This feels similar to trapped wind and is caused by the air pumped into your colon during the procedure to help your doctor better see the inside of your colon. 

If your doctor collected a tissue sample (biopsy) or removed tissue (eg a polyp) during your colonoscopy, you may also notice some mild bleeding from your rectum or some blood on your stools. 

In most cases, a colonoscopy doesn’t cause severe pain or discomfort. Any discomfort is outweighed by the benefits of having a colonoscopy ie to detect the underlying cause of any bowel problems or to check for bowel cancer

However, in rare cases, a colonoscopy can cause difficulty opening your bowels or passing gas, as well as:

  • A hard belly
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Frequent or severe bleeding from your rectum, or frequent or large amounts of blood on your stools when you open your bowels — bleeding that doesn’t stop or bleeding more than a few tablespoons of blood from your rectum are causes for concern
  • Severe abdominal cramping or abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your care team immediately. 

Bowel movements after a colonoscopy

For up to a day after your colonoscopy, you may feel bloated and frequently pass gas to empty the air passed into your colon during your colonoscopy. Walking can help pass the gas out of your body and ease discomfort.

You may not have a bowel movement for several days after your colonoscopy. When you finally do open your bowels for the first time after your colonoscopy, you may notice a little blood on your stools. If you continue to pass blood or blood clots from your rectum, have a fever or persistent abdominal pain, contact your care team.

Colonoscopy recovery and pain management

If you are having a colonoscopy and don’t want to have a sedative, talk to your care team beforehand. They may recommend inserting an IV line before your colonoscopy, so if you do need pain relief quickly, it can be injected straight into your bloodstream.

You can also talk to your doctor beforehand about whether there are any alternatives to a colonoscopy in your particular case. This may include a sigmoidoscopy, a barium enema or a CT colonoscopy.

Pain after colonoscopy FAQs

Is it normal to have pain a week after a colonoscopy?

No, any pain or discomfort after a colonoscopy should resolve in a day. If you are still in pain beyond a day after your procedure, contact your care team.

Why does my abdomen hurt after a colonoscopy?

Your abdomen may hurt after a colonoscopy due to bloating — air is pumped into your colon during the procedure to help your doctor better see the inside of your colon. You may therefore notice that you pass gas more frequently in the hours after your procedure. This should help ease your abdominal pain. If your pain persists after a day or you have severe abdominal pain, contact your care team. 

What helps with pain after colonoscopy?

Pain after a colonoscopy is usually caused by the discomfort of having air pumped into your colon during the procedure. Passing gas will, therefore, help ease your discomfort. Walking can help your body pass gas and ease discomfort.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.