What are Bowel Spasms?

Bowel spasms are muscle contractions of the intestines. These involuntary spasms may appear without any warning. They may be short or last for long periods of times. Bowel spasms are generally a quite painful and unpleasant experience, regardless of duration. Commonly, they appear as a symptom of an intestinal disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis, although spasms can be experienced by individuals with a completely normal digestive system.

Spasms of the bowels are different from the normal motility used to eliminate waste. Bowel spasms generally cause abnormally painful contractions. The abdominal pain may be so severe that the individual may become physically immobile while the spasm runs its course. In an individual with a normal digestive system, the spasms may be caused by stimulated nerve impulses. Nervousness, stress and anxiety are some common causes of intestinal nerve stimulation.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common cause of bowel spasms. The condition affects the large intestine. Diarrhea, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain are other general symptoms. Certain foods, stress and anxiety can exaggerate the symptoms and make the condition worse. Many people with IBS learn self-help techniques to curve such symptoms. This may include a change in diet and eliminating stress factors.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the lower digestive tract, which includes the large intestine and the rectum. The inflammation can lead to the formation of ulcers within the intestine. Bowel spasms are a common symptom of this condition, in addition to bloating, constipation, a fullness sensation and diarrhea. This condition may flare up and then go away for a period of time. The objective in treating this condition will be to prevent flareups.

The treatment methods used to treat bowel spasms will vary from patient to patient. An antispasmodic may be used to ease the tension causing the spasms. Individuals who have diarrhea as a result of the spasms may be given anti-diarrheal medications. As abdominal pain usually accompanies spasms in the bowels, anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed to lessen both pain and inflammation.

An individual suffering from bowel spasms should be seen by a doctor to evaluate the condition. A general doctor may refer a patient to a gastroenterologist, which is a doctor specializing in diseases and disorders of the digestive tract. It will be important to undergo a full examination, as severe bowel spasms may be a symptom of a wide variety of diseases. Generally, the individual will undergo a type of medical imaging test to get a detailed view of the inside of the intestinal tract.