What Is Colicky Pain?

Colic is a painful problem for children and some adults.
Colic is a painful problem for children and some adults. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

You might have experienced colicky pain if you’ve ever had a severe stomach pain that felt like a muscle spasm. Babies more often experience colic, making them cry even after they've been fed, burped and have had their diapers changed. Both stomach pains, whether in adults or babies, can be defined as colicky pain.

Causes of Colic

The cause of colic is not known. Possible triggers in both adults and infants may include allergies, lactose intolerance or an immature digestive system. Soy allergies in particular can cause digestive irritation in adults and infants. In babies, maternal anxiety or feeding position may be the source of colic. However, if after changing positions and remaining calm during feeding, the baby continues to experience colic, it is likely that you will not locate a source of your child’s colicky pain.

Colic in Infants

Colic is also common in infants. What separates a colicky infant from a fussy one is predictability. Children with colic experience episodes of intense and prolonged crying at the same times each day. Crying periods can last from a few minutes to a few hours in the late afternoon or evening. Crying seems to appear and disappear without warning or explanation. The infant may have a bowel movement or gas at the end of the period.

Symptoms of Colic

In adults, colic symptoms include pain in the chest or abdomen, especially after consumption of spicy or fatty foods. Rashes, bloating, irritability and fatigue after consumption of certain foods may also be symptoms of colic in adults. In infants, colic is recognized by intense, inconsolable crying that is high pitched and is accompanied by flushed cheeks. A baby experiencing colicky pain is inconsolable regardless of what the parent tries to do to relieve his pain. Colicky babies may also curl up their legs, clench their fists and tense their abdominal muscles during episodes.

Colicky Pain Treatment

Colicky pain in babies improves on its own and usually dissipates by about three months of age. Prescription medications like simethicone are available but have serious side effects and haven’t proven helpful overall for colic. Probiotics which help to maintain a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria may improve colicky pain. Talk to your physician or pediatrician before taking anything and to find out what your treatment options are. Other things you may try with an infant are offering a pacifier, singing softly, rocking gently and keeping your baby in constant motion, and taking a break so that you do not become frustrated and angry and exacerbate the situation. If you are an adult suffering from colic, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and see if there are dietary changes you can make to isolate possible allergies. When you are experiencing colicky pain, try laying down and listening to relaxing music. Place a warm heating pad on your abdomen and sip some chamomile tea to calm and relax yourself. Gently massaging your abdomen and chest may also provide some relief.

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