Find out what may actually be going on if you’re having joint pains and have been diagnosed with IBS.
“IBS as a rule does not directly cause joint pains, such as with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis,” says Michael Blume, MD, a gastroenterologist at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, Baltimore.
“If they do occur they may be from an unrelated issue or may indicate that there may be some other issue going on.”
First off, IBS is not an inflammatory bowel disease. It’s not an autoimmune disease, either. In fact, irritable bowel syndrome is a collection of symptoms.
If you’re having joint aches or “pain” that seem to correlate with your IBS attacks or episodes…it’s possible that these joint aches are connected to your gastrointestinal problem—but this would have to mean that you’ve been misdiagnosed as having IBS!
As mentioned, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can cause joint aches or pain. Both these conditions are inflammatory bowel diseases.
However…it’s not likely that Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis will be misdiagnosed as IBS.
There’s another inflammatory bowel disease, that can cause joint aches, that is often misdiagnosed as IBS: microscopic colitis.
There’s symptom overlap. However, the diagnosis for microscopic colitis can be made with 100 percent conclusion: a biopsy of a tissue sample taken from the colon during a colonoscopy.
The problem is that sometimes, the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome is made when there’s been no colonoscopy.
This misdiagnosis is far more likely to occur in a younger person, since GI symptoms in young people aren’t as alarming as they are in those over 40 and especially 50.
When I had my first flare-up of microscopic colitis…as I was being prepped for my colonoscopy…the nurse wasted no time telling me that the diarrhea could be from IBS.
- People with non-retractable IBS may actually have microscopic colitis.
- The treatment for IBS will not work on microscopic colitis.
Microscopic colitis causes joint aches in a small percentage of those diagnosed. I’m one of them.
The joint aches are identical to those that women get with PMS. (Search this site for more information on the joint aches of microscopic colitis, also referred to as enteropathic arthropathy).
If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, have not had a colonoscopy, and have joint aches that your doctor has said are not rheumatic, you should have a colonoscopy to see if you have microscopic colitis.
And by the way, the joint aches or enteropathic arthropathy from microscopic colitis are benign and transient.
Let them run their annoying course and you’ll soon be back at rock climbing, CrossFit, trail running, power lifting, or whatever your physical passion is.
The joint aches are caused by hormones called prostaglandins, not any degeneration in the joint itself.
In practice for 20+ years, Dr. Blume treats over 65 conditions including abdominal pain, appetite loss, blood in stool, celiac disease, colon cancer, esophageal and liver disease, gas and IBS.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.