Visceral hypersensitivity is highly prevalent in all functional bowel disorders. Most also demonstrate wider patterns of somatic referral of intestinal pain or discomfort. This hypersensitivity may explain the symptoms as the sensitive gut can be more easily provoked by normal or abnormal motor events in the gut. Visceral hypersensitivity may increase during psychosocial stress and during periods of symptom exacerbation, although this requires confirmation. Pharmacological therapy to reduce visceral hypersensitivity is now possible using antagonists to neurotransmitters, opening up an exciting new era for the treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders.