Systematic review: interventions for abdominal pain management in inflammatory bowel disease

Christine Norton*, W Czuber-Dochan, M Artom, L Sweeney, A Hart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Abdominal pain is frequently reported by people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including in remission. Pain is an under-treated symptom.

AIM: To systematically review evidence on interventions (excluding disease-modifying interventions) for abdominal pain management in IBD.

METHODS: Databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycInfo, CINAHL, Scopus, Cochrane Library) were searched (February 2016). Two researchers independently screened references and extracted data.

RESULTS: Fifteen papers were included: 13 intervention studies and two cross-sectional surveys. A variety of psychological, dietary and pharmacological interventions were reported. Four of six studies reported pain reduction with psychological intervention including individualised and group-based relaxation, disease anxiety-related Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and stress management. Both psychologist-led and self-directed stress management in inactive Crohn's disease reduced pain compared with controls (symptom frequency reduction index=-26.7, -11.3 and 17.2 at 6-month follow-up, respectively). Two dietary interventions (alcoholic drinks with high sugar content and fermentable carbohydrate with prebiotic properties) had an effect on abdominal pain. Antibiotics (for patients with bacterial overgrowth) and transdermal nicotine patches reduced abdominal pain. Current and past cannabis users report it relieves pain. One controlled trial of cannabis reduced SF-36 and EQ-5D pain scores (1.84 and 0.7, respectively). These results must be treated with caution: data were derived from predominantly small uncontrolled studies of moderate to low quality.

CONCLUSIONS: Few interventions have been tested for IBD abdominal pain. The limited evidence suggests that relaxation and changing cognitions are promising, possibly with individualised dietary changes. There is a need to develop interventions for abdominal pain management in IBD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
JournalAlimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics
Issue number2
Early online date4 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Review


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