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Does constipation cause stomach pain?

Does constipation cause stomach pain?

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Created on 4 Jul 2024
Updated on 16 Jul 2024

Constipation is a common digestive and gastrointestinal issue that affects millions of people worldwide. While the most obvious symptom of constipation is infrequent or difficult bowel movements, many individuals also experience accompanying abdominal discomfort and stomach pain. Understanding the relationship between constipation and stomach pain is crucial for the effective management and relief of these unpleasant symptoms.

What is constipation?

Constipation is a condition characterized by infrequent, difficult, or incomplete bowel movements. The normal frequency of bowel movements can vary from person to person, but generally, it is considered constipation if an individual has fewer than three bowel movements per week. Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors, including dietary habits, lifestyle choices, medications, and underlying medical conditions.

Possible causes of constipation

One of the main causes of constipation is a lack of dietary fiber. Fiber helps to add bulk to stools and promote regular bowel movements. When an individual’s diet is low in fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, stools can become hard and difficult to pass.

Other common causes of constipation include:

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Certain medications (e.g., opioid pain relievers, antidepressants, antacids)
  • Pregnancy
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Neurological disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis)
  • Metabolic conditions (e.g. hypothyroidism)
  • Structural abnormalities in the digestive tract

Constipation and stomach pain often go hand-in-hand, as the two conditions can be closely related. When an individual experiences constipation, the buildup of hard dry stools in the intestines can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal discomfort and stomach pain.

Possible reasons for stomach pain in constipation

There are several reasons why constipation can contribute to stomach pain:

  • The accumulation of stool in the intestines can cause the intestinal walls to become stretched and distended, leading to a feeling of abdominal fullness, bloating, and pain
  • The intestinal muscles may contract and spasm in an attempt to move the stool through the digestive tract, resulting in cramping and pain
  • In severe cases of constipation, impaction can occur when the stool becomes impacted in the rectum or lower intestine, causing a complete blockage and significant abdominal discomfort
  • The prolonged retention of stools can lead to inflammation of the intestinal lining, which can further contribute to abdominal pain and discomfort

Symptoms of stomach pain in constipation

Individuals with constipation-related stomach pain may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Stomach ache, discomfort or pain
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal distension or swelling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty passing gas

The severity and location of the stomach pain can vary depending on the underlying cause and the extent of the constipation.

When a patient presents with stomach pain and constipation, healthcare professionals will typically begin by taking a thorough medical history and conducting a physical examination. This may include:

  • Asking about the frequency, consistency, and difficulty of bowel movements
  • Palpating the abdomen to check for any areas of tenderness or distension
  • Performing a digital rectal exam to assess the presence of impacted stools

Depending on the findings, the healthcare provider may order additional tests, such as:

  • Blood tests to check for underlying medical conditions
  • Imaging studies, such as an abdominal X-ray or CT scan, to visualize the digestive tract
  • Endoscopic procedures, like a colonoscopy, to examine the intestines for any structural abnormalities

These diagnostic tools can help the healthcare provider determine the underlying cause of the constipation and associated stomach pain, allowing for appropriate treatment.

The treatment of constipation-related stomach pain typically involves a multifaceted approach, addressing both the constipation and the associated abdominal discomfort.

Dietary and lifestyle changes

One of the first lines of defense against constipation and stomach pain is to make changes to the diet and lifestyle. This may include:

  • Increasing the intake of high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids
  • Engaging in regular physical activity to promote bowel regularity
  • Establishing a consistent toilet routine and not ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Medication

In some cases, over-the-counter or prescription medications may be necessary to help alleviate constipation and the associated stomach pain. These may include:

  • Laxatives, such as osmotic or stimulant laxatives, to soften the stool and promote bowel movements
  • Stool softeners to make the stool easier to pass
  • Antispasmodic medications to help reduce intestinal spasms and cramping
  • Pain relievers to manage the abdominal discomfort

It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication, as some may interact with existing conditions or medications.

Complementary and alternative therapies

In addition to conventional medical treatments, some individuals may find relief from constipation-related stomach pain through complementary and alternative therapies, such as:

  • Probiotics and prebiotics to promote a healthy gut microbiome
  • Herbal remedies, such as senna or psyllium, to help regulate bowel movements
  • Acupuncture or massage therapy to alleviate abdominal discomfort

It is crucial to discuss the use of any complementary or alternative therapies with a healthcare provider, as they may interact with other treatments or have potential side effects.

Proactive steps can be taken to prevent the occurrence of constipation and the associated stomach pain. These include:

  • Maintaining a high-fiber diet
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Establishing a consistent toilet routine
  • Avoiding or minimizing the use of medications that can contribute to constipation
  • Managing underlying medical conditions that may lead to constipation

By addressing the root causes of constipation and implementing preventive measures, individuals can reduce the likelihood of experiencing stomach pain and other unpleasant symptoms associated with this common digestive issue.

Seeking professional help

If constipation-related stomach pain persists or worsens, it is important to seek the advice of a healthcare professional, such as a gastroenterologist or primary care provider. They can help to identify the underlying cause, provide appropriate treatment, and develop a comprehensive management plan to address both the constipation and the associated abdominal discomfort.


Constipation and stomach pain often go hand-in-hand, with the buildup of hard, dry stools in the intestines, leading to a range of unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal discomfort, bloating, and cramping. By understanding the mechanisms behind this relationship and implementing a multifaceted approach to treatment, individuals can find relief and improve their overall digestive health. Remember, seeking professional medical advice is crucial for managing persistent or severe constipation-related stomach pain.


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NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information on this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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