Although irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a multisymptom disorder, abdominal pain drives illness severity more than other symptoms. Despite consensus that IBS trials should measure pain to define study entry and determine efficacy, the optimal method of measuring pain remains uncertain.
To determine whether combining information from multiple pain dimensions may capture the IBS illness experience more effectively than the approach of measuring `pain predominance' or pain intensity alone.
Irritable bowel syndrome patients rated dimensions of pain, including intensity, frequency, constancy, predominance, predictability, duration, speed of onset and relationship to bowel movements. We evaluated the impact of each dimension on illness severity using multivariable regression techniques.
Among the pain dimensions, intensity, frequency, constancy and predictability were strongly and independently associated with illness severity; the other dimensions had weaker associations. The clinical definition of `pain predominance', in which patients define pain as their most bothersome symptom, was insufficient to categorize patients by illness severity.
Irritable bowel disease pain is multifaceted; some pain dimensions drive illness more than others. IBS trials should measure various pain dimensions, including intensity, constancy, frequency and predictability; this may improve upon the customary use of measuring pain as a unidimensional symptom in IBS.