Is a Colonoscopy Painful?


A colonoscopy should not be painful if done by a qualified practitioner. A doctor who specializes in colon examinations should not produce any pain for the patient. Just the thought of having the exam can produce fear and anxiety in a person who has never had a colonoscopy before. If the patient worries that he might have a disease such as colon cancer, that may make the exam painful because the patient will become tense.

Painless Procedure

When a colonoscopy is done correctly, it should not produce any pain for the patient. The patient receiving this type of exam is given a mild sedative, and quite often she is also given anesthesia or some type of opiate through an intravenous tube. With a qualified medical practitioner and the proper drugs, a person should not feel any pain at all. The only pain a patient may feel is the gas being pumped into the colon, but that can be lessened by the doctor and by giving the patient a higher dose of anesthesia medication.

What Is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that is performed on a patient, usually starting after the age of 50, to see if there are any abnormalities in the colon and rectum. The exam allows the doctor to view the inside of the colon and the rectum. The doctor can painlessly detect any inflamed tissue, ulcers and abnormal growths. This colon test can help the doctor diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, such as abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus and weight loss.

What Happens?

Before the test is administered, a patient is told to lie on the left side of the body so that the colonoscopy can be administered correctly and without pain. Then, after the patient is given a sedative and an opiate or anesthesia, the colonoscopy tube, which includes a tiny fiber-optic camera, is inserted into the rectum. The doctor will be able to view the entire length of the colon and the rectum. Gas will be pumped into the colon to inflate it, allowing the doctor to have a better view.

Uncomfortable Gas

During the test, the patient may feel the gas being pumped into the rectum and may become uncomfortable. But this feeling is not painful, and this feeling passes. However, after the test is completed, a nurse will tell the patient that he will "feel gassy" for a while.

Rare Side Effects

If a colonoscopy patient develops any of these rare side effects, she is advised to notify the doctor right away: abdominal pain, weakness, dizziness or bloody bowel movements. These side effects are very rare.

Talk to Doctor

During the procedure, if the patient does feel any pain, he is advised to let the doctor know afterward. This allows the doctor to record the patient's experience, and the next time the procedure is done, the patient can be given more drugs to ease any and all pain.


A colonoscopy exam only takes about 20 minutes to an hour. The length of time depends on what is done during the exam, such as the doctor removing a polyp for further examination, which is not a painful procedure due to the drugs given before and during the exam. A patient will have to wait for a small amount of time for the sedative to wear off before he can be driven home by a relative or a friend.

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