What You Need To Know About Trapped Wind After a Colonoscopy

For many people, trapped wind is a common and unpleasant side effect following a routine colonoscopy. While the symptoms will often quickly subside, you might need help to get over this symptom. Find out how wind gets trapped in your body after a colonoscopy, and learn more about the steps you can take to ease the problem.

What causes trapped air after a colonoscopy

The doctor inserts a long, flexible instrument called a colonoscope through your rectum and then carefully moves the instrument around the curves of your colon. The colonoscope also blows carbon dioxide into the colon. This air expands the colon and makes it easier for the doctor to spot any irregularities or problems.

Immediately after the procedure, patients stay in a recovery room while the anesthetic wears off. During this time, you will also normally expel most of the trapped air from your colon. Unfortunately, some patients experience a pocket of trapped air, causing painful stomach and abdominal cramps that can last for a few days after their hospital visit.

Easing the symptoms

Doctors recommend several simple steps you can take to ease the symptoms of trapped wind.

Once you leave the hospital, it's a good idea to walk around to encourage the air to pass through your body naturally. You may still feel a little woozy after the anesthetic, so make sure you don't go anywhere alone. A mild case of trapped wind will often subside straight away, if you can exercise enough to let the gas out.

Certain exercises at home can also help ease the symptoms. For example, try to lay on your back and roll back and forth. It may also help if you bring your knees up to your chest while you roll. This gentle movement will often encourage the gas to pass through your body, but it's probably a good idea to do this in the privacy of your own bedroom!

Hot drinks can also encourage the air to pass through your body. Peppermint tea is particularly effective, and doctors sometimes recommend peppermint oil for people with irritable bowel syndrome, thanks to the herb's natural antispasmodic properties. Peppermint tea is lighter and more refreshing than pure peppermint oil, especially following a colonoscopy, when your digestive system is likely to feel more delicate.

Medical help

If the symptoms don't subside, you may need to use medication. You can buy products containing a drug called simethicone over the counter. Simethicone can help break up trapped gas bubbles in your gut. The drug is normally available as a capsule, but you should check with your doctor before you use this (or any other) medication.

You may also choose to take over-the-counter painkillers to help ease the pain. A heat pad applied to your abdomen may also soothe some of the discomfort, while your body naturally passes the gas.

When to see your doctor

Doctors routinely carry out thousands of colonoscopies without any complications every year, but the procedure is not risk-free. During the procedure, your doctor may accidentally perforate the bowel, which can lead to serious complications.

Severe abdominal pain could indicate that the problem is more serious than trapped wind, especially if the discomfort worsens. Other symptoms of a bowel perforation include prolonged rectal bleeding, fever and chills. As such, you should seek medical attention if your symptoms don't improve within 48 hours or if your condition gets worse. While a doctor can spot and treat a perforation during a colonoscopy, the symptoms often don't appear until some time after the procedure. 

Trapped wind is a common side effect for colonoscopy patients, but the symptoms can sometimes cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Talk to your doctor for more advice about how to deal with trapped wind after your colonoscopy.