Colon spasms causes and symptoms and how to get rid of colon spasms

a man in a white shirt and jeans holding the front of his stomach with both hands

The digestive system is a long, twisted tube comprised of a number of hollow organs connected together to break down food into energy or trash. Food goes from the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach. After breaking down in the stomach, food is subsequently passed via the small intestine, into the large intestine (which includes the colon and rectum), and finally out of the anus.

Gases and other irritants may cause excruciating cramps and bloating along the way. An intestinal spasm, a quick, spontaneous muscle contraction that causes the area to constrict and move erratically, is what causes this to happen. Intestinal spasms are frequently painful and apparent, but normal contractions are barely noticeable.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a prevalent illness characterized by abdominal cramps, stomach pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, is frequently referred to as spastic colon.

The phrase “spastic colon” refers to the increase in spontaneous contractions (motility) of the small and large intestines’ muscles that are associated with IBS. These contractions are occasionally referred to as spasms. However, people with IBS may suffer symptoms for a variety of reasons; hence, “spastic colon” is not a precise synonym for IBS.

The cause and severity of IBS vary from individual to individual. The goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms, which may involve dietary changes, increased physical activity, stress reduction, and, for certain patients, anticholinergic drugs to reduce muscle spasms.

What is a colon spasm?

Colon spasms are the quick, abrupt, and excruciating contractions of the colon’s muscles. It is not a medical ailment in and of itself, but may signal an underlying issue. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon, is the most frequent condition associated with colon spasm because it generates aberrant muscle contractions in the colon.

Normally functioning colon muscles extend and contract to expel stool.

A colon spasm is a sudden, either overly forceful or out of rhythm contraction of the muscles lining the colon. Irritable bowel syndrome is usually accompanied with colon spasms.

Colon is a portion of the big intestine. It controls the generation and elimination of feces from meals carried through the small intestine.

Colon spasms are not, in and of themselves, a medical issue. They are merely a sign of numerous medical disorders. Occasionally, colon spasms occur for no apparent reason.

Colon spasms were formerly the defining symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The term “spastic colon” was once used to describe IBS.

Causes of colon spasms

A spastic colon is a symptom, not a sickness, of something else going on in your body. The most typical medical ailment that causes colon spasms is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These contractions, however, can also be brought on by other disorders, such as:

  • Ulcerative colitis: including transverse colon spasms
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Trapped gas
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Bacteria infection of the gut (gastroenteritis).
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Food intolerances (like celiac disease)
  • Stomach flu (AKA gastroenteritis)
  • Food poisoning
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Distended or enlarged colon
  • An intestinal blockage
  • Bacterial infection in your digestive tract
  • Parasite infections
  • Trapped gas
  • Chronic stress
  • Excess physical stress or muscle strain

What does a spastic colon feel like? Can you feel colon spasms? colon spasm symptoms? are colon spasms a sign of cancer? how long do colon spasms last

The spasm of the colon is a symptom. Pain is caused by a temporary tightness of the abdominal muscles. This may be related to benign and harmful underlying causes.

People do not experience typical intestinal function. But when colon spasms disturb your regular life, it is simple to notice the symptoms.

If you’re wondering what colon spasms feel like, you’ve come to the correct spot. Involuntary colon spasms often induce pain on your left side, although it can depend on how far up your large intestine the spasm occurs.

The severity of colon spasms might vary from person to person, but the most frequently reported symptoms are:

    • Pain: Severe stomach pain in the lower abdomen, which seems to worsen after every meal and subsides after a bowel movement..
    • Unexpected need to urinate: Colon muscle contractions could cause an unexpected urge to use the restroom.
    • Unsteady stools: Colon spasms may hinder proper stoma formation, resulting in loose and watery feces (diarrhea)
    • Alternating bowel movements: A colon that is in spasm may be the cause of patterns of diarrhea and constipation.
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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) frequently has intestinal spasms as a sign or symptom. As a functional digestive condition, irritable bowel syndrome still produces symptoms even while the digestive system appears to be unharmed. It is the most prevalent functional digestive illness, affecting 10 to 15 percent of the global population. IBS also results in gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in addition to intestinal spasms. IBS is sometimes known as “spastic colon” due to the intestinal disorder’s propensity for spasms.

Although the terms “spastic colon” and “IBS” are frequently used interchangeably, a spastic colon is not always a symptom of IBS. IBS can be classified into three primary categories: diarrhea, constipation, and mixed. It’s likely that you will encounter a spastic colon as a symptom of IBS-D (IBS with diarrhea). In contrast, IBS-C (IBS with constipation) may cause less muscular spasms.

According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, up to 45 million Americans are affected by it (IFFGD).

IBS does not harm the intestines and poses no threat to life. However, the symptoms might cause considerable bodily and emotional discomfort.

However, not all people with IBS experience colon spasms. Some individuals may experience IBS-related constipation, which is frequently caused by slower or fewer gut muscle contractions. Other individuals may experience both constipation and diarrhea.

Diagnosis of IBS

There are several straightforward requirements you must satisfy in order to determine whether your spastic colon symptoms are actually caused by IBS (and your doctor is the best person to fully confirm this and rule out other underlying diseases).

In a nutshell, if you experience two or more of the following symptoms for at least three months, you may have IBS: Improvement with defecation, altered stool frequency, and Stools’ look has changed.

Diagnostic testing of IBS

Your doctor can suggest the following tests to rule out other gastrointestinal diseases that cause symptoms similar to IBS:

  • Stool sample: To check for signs of infection and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Blood test: To check for problems such as coeliac disease.
  • Colonoscopy: to look for indications of inflammation in the inner lining of the colon. Using this, inflammatory bowel disorders can be identified.
  • X-ray or CT scan: Physical causes of abdominal discomforts, such as twisted bowels, can be ruled out by an abdominal and pelvic scan.
  • Breath tests: To test for lactose intolerance, which may cause abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea. Bacterial overgrowth can also be assessed with a breath test.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the name used to describe a set of chronic disorders involving inflammation of the digestive tract and is second to IBS as the most frequent cause of intestinal spasms. IBD in people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis is the most prevalent kind. Any area of the digestive tract may become inflamed as a result of the chronic ailment Crohn’s disease. Unpleasant symptoms brought on by this illness include intestinal ulcers, discomfort, and pain.

When the lining of your large intestine becomes inflamed, ulcerative colitis develops. The lining of your colon develops microscopic wounds known as ulcers as a result of this inflammation. It typically starts in the rectum and moves up, occasionally affecting your entire colon. Your bowel moves its contents quickly and empties frequently as a result of the inflammation. Ulcers develop as the surface lining of your bowel loses cells. The ulcers could result in bleeding, mucous, and pus discharge.

Spasms and other related symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, exhaustion, the urge to pass stool regularly, and even weight loss can be brought on by either ailment. In order to identify the underlying cause of your issue, it is crucial to schedule a visit with your doctor because intestinal spasms and IBS have many of the same symptoms.


As the muscles work hard to expel the gas, excess gas in the intestines may cause spasms. Inflammation of the stomach and intestines is known as gastroenteritis. The illness is typically brought on by germs, viruses, or tainted food (food poisoning). Probiotics and popular acid-reducing medications might lessen frequency and intensity despite being uncomfortable and irritating.

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Muscle Strain

Increased stomach and intestinal spasms might result from overusing the abdominal muscles. People who perform core workouts like crunches and sit-ups on a daily basis are more likely to get spasms as a result. An organ or other structure that pushes through a weak area of muscle or tissue is known as a hernia. The most typical type of hernia is an inguinal one, which develops when a portion of the intestines pushes through the abdominal muscles and into the groin region. Intestinal spasms and other significant digestive issues, such as pressure ulcers, can result from this unnatural pressure.

Potential Causes of Intestinal Spasms

For muscles to work properly, they need to be well-hydrated and fed. Muscles that are malnourished are pushed to perform harder while consuming less energy, which puts pressure and tension on them. An imbalance of the body’s electrolytes, particularly sodium, can result from dehydration. Monitoring the appropriate daily water and vitamin consumption can keep everything functioning normally. In addition to the previously mentioned factors, various underlying medical illnesses or problems can also result in colon spasms. If intestinal spasms last for more than a few days, you should see a doctor because these reasons may be difficult for the untrained eye to distinguish.

Food allergies and intolerances

Some individuals may be unable to adequately digest particular meals (intolerance). Lactose intolerance, for example, refers to an inability to digest lactose, which is the natural sugar present in dairy products. According to Genetics Home Reference, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), around 65 percent of the global population is lactose intolerant. When a person with lactose intolerance consumes dairy products, they may have colon spasms, stomach pain, and digestive issues.


Endometriosis is a disorder in which the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. According to estimates, up to 15% of women in their most fertile phase have endometriosis.

If endometriosis affects the colon, a person may feel worsening colon spasms, discomfort, or diarrhea during their menstrual cycle.

There are numerous therapies available for endometriosis. The optimal treatment will depend on the patient’s age, symptoms, and desire to have children in the future. Endometriosis control may alleviate bowel spasms, discomfort, and other symptoms.

Treatment of spastic colon and how to get rid of colon spasms

Colon spasms are common and typically associated with IBS, but they can also be caused by other health issues. If you have been having abdominal pain, cramping, or diarrhea for an extended period of time, you should consult your doctor. If you have IBS and are suffering from a spastic colon, you can address this symptom with dietary changes, such as the low FODMAP diet, mind-body interventions, such as hypnosis, or medication.

Although the reason will ultimately determine how to treat spastic colon, this condition can be managed by diet, medication, and mind-body therapies.

Some individuals with chronic colon spasms may qualify for medication to alleviate their symptoms. However, medicines frequently create unwanted side effects and do not treat the underlying reasons of your symptoms. As a result, healthcare professionals typically begin the therapy of colon spasms with lifestyle modifications and natural home remedies. They may suggest:

1) Remove trigger foods

The symptoms of spastic colon/IBS are frequently worse by “trigger foods” that might vary from person to person. The low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet, on the other hand, excludes short-chain carbs, which typically exacerbate IBS symptoms. These FODMAPs are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, and it has been shown that removing them improves IBS symptoms in roughly 70% of patients. Commonly excluded foods on the low FODMAP diet include:

  • Lactose: milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products
  • Fructose: fruits such as apples, pears, and mangoes and products containing high fructose corn syrup
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides: lentils, chickpeas, soy products, and broccoli
  • Fructans: vegetables such garlic, onion, and broccoli, and grains such as wheat and rye
  • Polyols: fruits such as peaches, watermelon, and blackberries, and artificial sweeteners such as mannitol, maltitol, and sorbitol.
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Typically, the low FODMAP diet consists of two phases: the elimination phase, during which FODMAPs are completely removed from the diet, and the reintroduction phase, during which foods are gradually reintroduced while symptoms are monitored. Dietary therapy for IBS aims to eliminate “trigger” foods while ensuring adequate nutrition. To maintain enough nutrition while on the low FODMAP diet, it is recommended to consult a dietitian.

2) Mind-body interventions

The reason of IBS remains a mystery. However, it appears that the bowel has a tendency to overreact to some stimuli, such as stress and emotional trauma. Therefore, psychological therapies have been proven to be particularly beneficial in treating IBS patients. These consist of:

  • Stress management reduces the likelihood of IBS and other health conditions that might cause colon spasms.
  • Relaxation and suggestions are used in gut-directed hypnotherapy to assist IBS sufferers feel more positive about their body feelings. This therapy works on the gut-brain link to minimize pain signals and desensitize the gut to digestive processes.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a sort of psychotherapy in which patients are taught to confront negative IBS-related beliefs and adopt a more optimistic view. Reducing the stress reaction and low mood has been demonstrated to alleviate IBS symptoms.
  • Low to moderate-intensity exercise appears to alleviate IBS symptoms, such as bowel spasms. Recent studies continue to demonstrate that physical activity can help manage bowel movements.
  • Mindfulness meditation is a sort of Buddhist training in which patients are instructed to accept and evaluate bodily sensations without judging them.
    By focusing the patient’s attention on the present moment, this sort of therapy reduces unpleasant IBS-related thoughts that may exacerbate symptoms.

3) Medication for spastic colon

There are situations when colon spasms require medical attention. When you visit a doctor for an examination of your digestive system, the diagnosis may involve stool or blood tests, x-rays, or a colonoscopy.

If you suspect that your colon spasms are caused by IBS, we conduct a SIBO test on all new patients. At PrimeHealth Denver, the majority of IBS cases are caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO.

Drugs for spastic colon/IBS

Several drugs for spastic colon/IBS include:

  • Fiber supplements: such as psyllium (Metamucil) to improve symptoms of constipation in constipation-predominant IBS.
  • Laxatives: such as polyethylene glycol and lactulose can improve motility in IBS with constipation.
  • Anti-diarrheal medications: such as loperamide (Imodium) can improve symptoms of diarrhea-predominant IBS.
  • Pain medications: such asPregabalin (Lyrica) can reduce abdominal pain in IBS.
  • Antidepressants: such as tricyclic antidepressants, imipramine and desipramine, and SSRI medications, fluoxetine and paroxetine may decrease abdominal pain in IBS.
  • IBS-specific medications: such as alosetron. In IBS with diarrhea, alosetron works by relaxing the colon to delay the passage of digested material. Other medications, such as linaclotide, enhance motility in IBS with constipation by relaxing the colon and boosting fluid secretion in the small intestines..
  • Probiotics: Probiotics containing live bacterial species, such as Bifidobacterium, may alleviate IBS symptoms with minimal adverse effects by increasing the diversity of germs in the gut. Nonetheless, this study is preliminary.
  • Antispasmodic medications: such as dicyclomine (Bentyl) may relieve stomach cramps and abdominal pain in IBS by relaxing the smooth muscles of the gut.

If you experience frequent colon spasms, you should seek diagnosis. Identifying the source of the issue is the first step toward resolution. Medical testing can confirm or rule out specific medical disorders, discover food intolerance, or treat an illness. You may have a sickness that requires treatment, or you may simply need to embark on a road toward lifetime wellbeing. Healthcare is beneficial.

Colon spasms can make you feel as though your body is fighting against you. The muscle contractions are involuntary, frequently painful, and interfere with normal bowel function. Getting back on the same page with your stomach so that you can address its concerns and help to quiet it down will provide relief. This includes paying attention to what troubles and what soothes your colon, whether it’s food, habit, or stressor. It may also involve seeking a professional diagnosis in order to receive the individualized treatment you require.