The colon is another name for the large intestine. It is an important part of the digestive system. Sometimes a person can experience pain in this area. After food passes through the stomach, it enters the small intestine, where the body absorbs most of its nutrients.
The remaining waste products will move to the colon, where the body removes as much fluid as possible and the remaining nutrients. It then turns this waste into feces and removes it.
How does colon pain feel
The colon is about 5 feet long and surrounds the abdomen on the right side, through, and on the left side. Then it goes down to the lower part of the colon, or the rectum. The rectum connects to the anus, which is the opening from which stool leaves the body. The colon contracts as it moves food and digested waste. In a healthy colon, these contractions are painless and people rarely notice them.
However, certain conditions that affect the colon can cause pain. For example, when the colon is irritated, inflamed, infected, obstructed, or impeded, strong contractions can occur. These can cause pain and discomfort.
Due to the sinuous route of the colon through the abdomen, a person may feel colon pain in several different areas. For example, some may have general abdominal pain, while others may have pain in a specific location. People may also feel pain in the rectal area, just above the anus. This pain may feel sharp and stabbing or dull and achy.
Causes of colon pain
There are several medical conditions and temporary digestive problems that can cause colon pain. The sections below discuss this in more detail.
When stools are too large or too hard, they cannot pass out of the colon and rectum comfortably. This can cause abdominal pain and pain near the rectum and anus. Sometimes hard stools can cause tears in the lining of the anus or anal fissures. This can cause bleeding and pain when you have a bowel movement. People with constipation may need more fiber in their diet. They can help soften the stool and allow it to pass more easily by:
- Eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
- Talking to a doctor about fiber supplements
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
Certain medications can also cause constipation. A person with medication-related constipation should speak to their doctor if this side effect causes them distress.
Diarrhea has a variety of potential causes, ranging from food intolerances to viruses and bacteria. It occurs when a person’s colon contracts too often, causing watery or loose stools. These rapid contractions can cause abdominal pain and cramps leading to colon pain. Loose stools can also irritate the anus, causing burning and stinging.
Diarrhea is usually short-lived if caused by a virus or food intolerance. However, some bacteria and diseases that cause diarrhea can be serious and lead to dehydration. Treatment options for mild diarrhea may include electrolyte drinks (to prevent dehydration) and a bland diet.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says that over-the-counter (OTC) anti-diarrhea medications can help treat acute diarrhea. However, a child should not use over-the-counter medications without first consulting a doctor’s parents or caregivers. People who have diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days should speak with a doctor.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive condition with symptoms that often affect the colon. IBS can cause stomach pain and colon cramps, usually around a bowel movement. IBS can also cause:
- Gas and bloating
- Mucus in stool
Health professionals currently do not know the exact cause of IBS. However, there may be a link between IBS and increased sensitivity of the intestines or the immune system.