Cramps in the intestines


Cramps in the intestines are expressed as a stabbing, pulling or pinching sensation. The symptoms can widen and wane within a short time and are due to increased intestinal peristalsis. This is understood to be the muscular activity of the intestine, which can be observed in the normal digestive process. Intolerance, infectious or inflammatory causes and stress-related factors play an important role in the pathogenesis.

Intestinal colic describes very strong, labor-like cramps and is associated with vegetative symptoms such as sweating, high heart rate and circulatory problems.


The causes of intestinal cramps range from an infectious process, food intolerance, narrowing of the intestinal diameter in the context of chronic intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, appendicitis to tumor-related complaints, an intestinal obstruction (ileus), irritable bowel syndrome and stress-related symptoms to poisoning. Cramps in the bowel area do not always have to be caused by the bowel itself. Radiated pain from the stomach, gallbladder or kidney colic and abdominal pain can be misinterpreted as intestinal cramps.

Find out more about the topics Appendicitis, intestinal obstruction or Irritable bowel syndrome.

Intestinal cramps from stress

Intestinal cramps occur in many people as a result of stress. This is because there are many close links between psychological distress and physical symptoms. Stress can affect the entire body and is a heavy burden for many people. Very often stress leads to digestive disorders.
Intestinal cramps and severe abdominal pain develop. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. The intestinal cramps are often aggravated by the fact that many people who suffer from stress have an irregular and inadequate diet. This also affects the intestines, which can respond with cramps.

Psychosomatic causes

Many people react to psychological stress with physical symptoms. Often, digestive tract symptoms occur, typically with abdominal pain and intestinal cramps. This can be due, for example, to the fact that those affected do not perceive or do not want to perceive the psychological stress. The body then looks for a kind of valve to reduce the stress. This can cause physical symptoms to appear. However, the exact relationships have not yet been clarified.

This article might also interest you: Abdominal pain from psyche

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium is an important mineral for the functioning of muscles. Magnesium enables muscles in the body to relax again after they have contracted, i.e. contracted. Magnesium is also important for the muscles of the intestine. If there is a deficiency in magnesium, the intestinal muscles can no longer relax properly. This leads to intestinal cramps. A magnesium deficiency is often accompanied by a lack of water, which also leads to an imbalance of many minerals that are important for the intestinal muscles.

Read more on the topic: You can recognize a magnesium deficiency by these symptoms


Pulling, stabbing or pinching cramps in the intestine can occur as the sole symptom or in combination with other symptoms. These include general symptoms such as fever and fatigue, but also vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea Flatulence as well as bleeding. Constipation and tension in the abdominal muscles can also be observed. In addition, care should be taken to avoid unwanted weight loss.

General information about abdominal cramps can be found at: Cramps in the abdomen.


The medical history is the first diagnostic step. Questions about the quality and quantity of pain, food dependency, other symptoms, stool color and consistency, previous illnesses and the last menstrual period are often groundbreaking when making a diagnosis.
This is followed by a physical examination of the abdomen, during which the doctor palpates the rectum with his finger if necessary. Further examination methods such as laboratory diagnostics, stool samples, sonography and X-rays are carried out depending on the previous result. Colonoscopies, special tests for chronic bowel disease and other imaging tests such as MRI and CT are used when necessary to clarify the cause.

also read The course of a colonoscopy


Sudden, severe, colicky cramps in the bowel to be taken seriously and should be clarified by a doctor. The same applies to long-lasting, constant complaints. In general, the duration of the pain depends on the underlying disease and can vary from a few hours to months.

Cramps in the bowel during bowel movements

If cramps occur in the bowel during bowel movements, irritable bowel syndrome may be responsible. It is an often stress-related colon dysfunction that lasts for at least 12 weeks a year. Diarrhea and constipation can alternate and are accompanied by painful cramps. The discomfort occurs before and during a bowel movement and usually subsides after stool has been weaned.

Often it is not possible to set a precise time limit for the complaints. Cramps that occur before bowel movements as a result of adhesions in the abdomen, inflammatory or chronic intestinal diseases or meteorism usually subside during the process.

Read more on the topic Irritable bowel syndrome

Cramps in the bowel before a bowel movement

Cramps that start before a bowel movement and persist throughout the process and then subside are due to increased bowel activity. The stool collects in the rectum and triggers a reflex stimulus for emptying. The larger the amount of stool, the higher the bowel activity and the stronger the cramps that may occur at the same time.

Cramps in the intestine are sometimes caused by adhesions (so-called Brides), inflammatory and chronic intestinal diseases as well as severe meteorism. Irritable bowel syndrome is also associated with cramp-like pain before bowel movements.

A Gastrointestinal infection with diarrhea symptoms often announces itself through increased "Rumor“Of the intestine, which can be accompanied by pulling spasms. The bowels are then quickly emptied.

Cramps in the bowel without diarrhea

Numerous diseases of the digestive tract can lead to bowel cramps. If intestinal cramps occur without subsequent diarrhea, various causes can be considered. Irritable bowel syndrome can, but does not have to be, coupled with diarrhea. The same applies to certain pathogens that cause gastrointestinal infections without the typical symptoms of diarrhea. Appendicitis as well as intestinal obstruction can be associated with stool retention.
For example, diverticulosis, in which bulges form in the intestine, can only cause pain, but not diarrhea. Constipation also causes cramps in the intestines. This can result from a disruption of the intestinal muscles or the nerves supplying it. In most cases, however, the cause remains unexplained. Some medications can also cause cramps in the bowel without diarrhea as a side effect.

You might also be interested in this topic: Intestinal cramps without diarrhea

Cramps in the bowel with diarrhea

If intestinal cramps occur together with diarrhea, there are many different causes. If there is an intolerance or allergy to certain foods, the intestines are not able to absorb or use them normally. As a result, he often reacts with cramps because he is under great strain. In addition, there are frequent, usually quite large amounts of diarrhea, as the digestive tract excretes the food that cannot be absorbed. Accordingly, these foods should be avoided; in the case of lactose intolerance, for example, the missing enzyme can also be replaced.

There are also various infections that can lead to cramps in the intestines with diarrhea. These include both bacterial pathogens, such as Salmonella, as well as viruses such as the norovirus, or parasites such as the amoeba. Accordingly, various antibiotics, antivirals or agents for fighting parasites are available for treatment.

The so-called chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are also possible causes. Irritable bowel syndrome or various medications can also lead to cramps in the intestines and diarrhea as side effects.

Read more on the topic: Intestinal cramps with diarrhea.

Bowel cramps and blood in your stool

If there is also blood in the stool in the case of intestinal cramps, there may be various possible causes. In inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, blood in the stool, usually in combination with diarrhea, can occur. Likewise, hemorrhoids, i.e. vascular and skin bulges in the area of ​​the anus, can lead to blood in the stool, which can lead to intestinal cramps. However, the symptoms can also be an indication of colon cancer, which is why a doctor should be consulted for clarification if they occur repeatedly.

Cramps in the abdomen

Intestinal cramps with main location in right lower abdomen indicate appendicitis. The pain often begins in the navel area and then moves to the right pelvic region. Parts of the small intestine and rectum are also located in the lower abdomen and can be the cause of the cramps that occur.

Complaints on the right side are typical for Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis is associated with left-sided lower abdominal pain, especially before bowel movements. Above all, left-sided lower abdominal cramps and sometimes colic-like pain are associated with Colon diverticula (Protrusions of the intestinal wall) to be observed. Chronic bowel cramps and abdominal pain also occur in irritable bowel syndrome.

The symptoms of constipation are a more harmless cause of cramps in the lower abdomen. Other triggers include Hernias and tumors.

Nocturnal intestinal cramps

Some people have intestinal cramps, especially at night. The reason for this can, for example, be a food intolerance. Digestive tract complaints often arise as soon as the body is at rest. This can e.g. suffer from lactose intolerance after consuming dairy products. But other intestinal diseases can also lead to cramps, which often occur at night. For some people this is e.g. the case with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Therefore, a doctor should always be consulted for clarification.

Cramps after spicy food

After spicy food, many people react with stomach pain and cramps in the intestines. This is due to a particular substance called capsaicin that appears in spicy foods. This binds in the digestive tract, especially in the intestine, to certain components, so-called receptors, on the intestinal surface.
This can cause pain and cramps. There are some studies that have also shown that these specific receptors are more common in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore, with such a disease, the consumption of spicy food should be avoided as far as possible.

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Cramps after taking antibiotics- what can it be?

If intestinal cramps occur after taking antibiotics for a long time, the cause may be a bacterial infection. The trigger for this is a certain type of Clostridia, also called Clostridium difficile. These bacteria are known to damage the intestinal wall, often after prolonged use of antibiotics such as amoxicillin after pneumonia. This leads to severe intestinal cramps. The digestive tract also reacts with diarrhea, which is typically reddish and also known as raspberry jelly-like. The antibiotic metronidazole works well against these bacteria.

Find out more about the topic: Side effects of antibiotics

Cramps in the bowel during pregnancy

Bowel cramps during pregnancy are less common than the usual symptoms such as nausea and back pain, but they are not uncommon. Gastrointestinal complaints can occur particularly in the first few weeks of pregnancy. While cramping pain and diarrhea are seen in some cases, others suffer from persistent constipation. The pathogenesis is multifactorial and depends, among other things, on the hormonal balance, diet and individual disposition.

Intestinal cramps in combination with constipation must not be treated with commercially available laxatives. Instead, attention should be paid to adequate exercise, fluid intake and a diet rich in fiber (vegetables, fruit, whole grain products). Mild diarrhea can be countered with grated apples, bananas and other foods that thicken the stool. Intestinal cramps and severe diarrhea as part of a viral infection should be the reason for a visit to the doctor in charge.

also read Abdominal pain in pregnancy

What helps against cramps in the intestine?

For painful intestinal cramps, different therapeutic approaches are appropriate depending on the cause. However, general measures will in many cases provide short-term symptom relief. This includes the use of a heat pad, for example a hot water bottle or a cherry stone pillow. Warmth stimulates blood circulation and relaxes the abdominal muscles. A lying position on your back with your legs drawn up also relieves the pain.

Home remedies such as soothing and anti-inflammatory chamomile tea help relax the bowel movements. Peppermint tea or fennel tea also have an antispasmodic effect. Alcohol, nicotine and high-fat and flatulent foods should be avoided. Sufficient fluid intake of at least two liters per day is also important. Tight-fitting clothing can make the symptoms even worse and should be avoided. Relaxing movement exercises help relieve abdominal cramps. Conscious deep breathing plays an essential role here. When you inhale, your belly bulges outward. When the air flows out again, it flattens out.

Medicinal symptom relief is achieved with antispasmodic agents (spasmolytics) such as butylscopolamine or mebeverine, which help relax the gastrointestinal muscles.

Antibiotics and laxative as well as surgical measures are used depending on the responsible cause.

Also read the following articles:

  • Anti-flatulence drugs
  • What works best against intestinal cramps?
  • Flatulence home remedies

Drugs for intestinal cramps

Many medications can help with intestinal cramps. Buscopan®, for example, is very suitable for the acute treatment and resolution of cramps. This drug acts directly on the muscles of the intestine and relaxes them there. It is therefore recommended for intestinal cramps, but also for inflammation of the pancreas, as it acts on many parts of the digestive tract.
Another very effective drug is Iberogast®. It can be taken for various ailments of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as cramps in the intestines. Other antispasmodic agents include Lefax® or Probielle®. The latter can relieve the pain caused by the cramps in irritable bowel syndrome.

Find out more about the topic: Medicines for gastrointestinal diseases

If the cause of the cramps is unclear, pain relievers such as Ibuprofen or paracetamol, if possible, should be avoided. These so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause bleeding in various diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, depending on the cause, various other medications can be helpful. For example, if there is an infection, it should be treated accordingly, depending on the pathogen.

Home remedies for intestinal cramps

There are many home remedies that can relieve the pain of bowel cramps. Warmth, for example in the form of a hot water bottle, can always have a supportive effect. The warmth relaxes the intestines and is usually very helpful, especially if you have additional bed rest.Drinking warm tea also helps with the warmth in the stomach. Certain types of tea, such as Chamomile or ginger tea also counteract any inflammation that may exist and relax the intestinal wall.

Lightly stroking or massaging the abdomen can also help relieve existing tension. Various herbs, such as caraway seeds, can also have a calming effect and reduce existing inflammation. Like chamomile or sea buckthorn, caraway seeds can also help as an oil. Up to three half teaspoons of this can be taken in a day.
With some causes of intestinal cramps, bitter substances such as Wormwood, be helpful. They cause digestive juices to be produced in the intestine, which promotes the function and cleansing of the intestine. Occasionally, Schüssler salts can also help relieve the pain caused by cramps in the intestines.


Accumulated gas in the intestine is accompanied by an increased feeling of pressure and fullness. In some cases, there are also unpleasant intestinal cramps. Flatulence occurs in different ways. Rapid, hasty food intake leads to the entry of air into the gastrointestinal tract. Legumes and bloating vegetables also cause gas. In addition, a kinked bowel can prevent air from escaping and causes the subsequent meteorism.

Often, cramps in the intestines occur along with gas. Flatulence occurs when food is digested, for example when it is digested and fats are used. Therefore, an unbalanced diet can lead to increased gas and bowel cramps. Food intolerance is often responsible for both symptoms. Lactose intolerance, for example, means that dairy products or products with lactose cannot be consumed. If these are absorbed anyway, the intestine reacts with cramps and gas.

Read more on the topic: Flatulence

Back pain

If there are cramps in the intestine, back pain can also occur from time to time. The reason for this is usually the close proximity of some parts of the intestine to the back. This can cause pain to radiate into the back through the cramps. Overstimulated and stressed nerves from intestinal cramps can also lead to back pain. However, it should also be considered that both symptoms may occur independently. Indications for this can be a very independent occurrence of the symptoms over time or if the back pain worsens, for example after certain movement or physical activity.

How can I tell the difference between intestinal cramps and labor?

It can happen that pregnant women are unsure if they experience pain in the abdomen and especially the abdomen whether it is intestinal cramps or labor. Unfortunately, ultimately it cannot simply be ruled out that only one or the other is present. Therefore, attention should be paid to other signs of cramps in the bowel, such as bowel noises or changes in bowel movements. If anything is unclear, a doctor should be consulted to be on the safe side. Further tips can also be obtained from midwives.