Colon Spasm Symptoms

Colon spasms are spontaneous contractions of the muscles in the colon. Irritable bowel syndrome, also called IBS, is a common cause of colon spasms. In fact, the term spastic colon is sometimes used as another name for irritable bowel syndrome. In people with irritable bowel syndrome, several different factors can trigger colon spasms, such as stress or eating a meal high in fat. Colon spasms may result in several different symptoms.

A woman is holding her stomach. Credit: Brejeq/iStock/Getty Images

Abdominal Cramps

Abdominal cramps are one very common symptom of colon spasms. The tightly contracting muscles of the colon can result in severe abdominal pain. In some cases, the pain and cramping may lessen or stop completely after the person has a bowel movement. When a person has colon spasms that cause pain, they may also experience changes in how often they have a bowel movement or how the stools look.

Changes to Bowel Movements

Colon spasms may cause different effects on bowel movements, depending on which particular muscles of the colon spasm. The colon contains longitudinal muscles that run its the length. It also contains circular muscles that wrap around its diameter. When the longitudinal muscles spasm, diarrhea often results, which is often accompanied by a sudden, uncontrollable urge to have a bowel movement. In contrast, when the circular muscles spasm, constipation results. People with irritable bowel syndrome may alternate between colon spasms causing diarrhea and spasms causing constipation. Colon spasms can also result in an urge to have another bowel movement immediately after a bowel movement is completed.

Additional Symptoms

Colon spasms frequently cause gas and bloating, which often adds additional discomfort to the other symptoms. People with irritable bowel syndrome who frequently have colon spasms may also have mucus in their stool, and may frequently have loose stools. Seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis if you experience abdominal pain or changes in your bowel habits.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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