Colic is an access to abdominal pain, usually characteristic for site and irradiation, caused by violent contractions of a hollow viscus with smooth muscles.

On the basis of the anatomical structure involved, intestinal, renal, hepato-biliary, appendicular, pancreatic, ovarian, gastric etc. colic is distinguished.


When one speaks of colic, the multiple causes of origin are traced to insults of an obstructive or inflammatory nature.

  • In the first case the biliary colic and the renal colic fall, in which a calculation prevents, respectively, the normal outflow of bile or urine; analogous speech for intestinal obstructions, where the distension of the viscera stimulates the nerve fibers of the peritoneum causing often violent pains.

    To learn more: Gall bladder calculations and kidney stones

  • Inflammatory colics are typically sustained by colitis, which may have a psychic origin (excess stress, anxiety, etc.) or dietetics (eating disorders, intolerances, aerophagia).

    To learn more: Irritable Colon Syndrome and Colitis

Other Causes

  • Food factors and in particular an intolerance towards breast milk or artificial milk are also involved in the appearance of another type of colic, this time typically neonatal . Shortly after finishing the feeding, the infant shows his pain with an intense and desperate cry, accompanied by movements of flexion of the legs on the abdomen and intense meteorism (it is therefore known as colic gaseous). Food intolerances, such as lactose, are responsible for abdominal colics even in adulthood.

    To learn more: Coliche del Neonato

  • The disorder can also have an infectious nature, as happens in the presence of viral gastroenteritis or bacterial toxinfections of food origin; in both cases the pain is often accompanied by fever and diarrhea.

To learn more: Colic - Causes and Symptoms


Pain, which is usually accompanied by short periods of rest, can also be associated with nausea and vomiting, and generally regresses spontaneously.

As anticipated, the painful symptoms vary according to the type of colic that generated it.

  • In biliary colic a very intense pain is perceived around the upper region of the abdomen (in the center or on the right); the algia can last even several hours, generally it has constant intensity and typically tends to migrate towards the back, localizing itself in the region comprised between the vertebral column and the inferior angle of the right scapula. Often, this painful symptomatology is accompanied by nausea and vomiting; more rarely to yellowish discoloration of the skin and ocular sclerae (jaundice).
  • In renal colic, episodic pain is localized electively in the lumbar region corresponding to the affected kidney and, unlike what is seen for biliary colic, it often radiates downwards along the ureteral course, extending to the groin, to the root of the thigh and testicle or vulva. In this case the onset of colic, which in any case recognizes a certain individual predisposition, is facilitated by an insufficient intake of water, while the unleashing of a biliary colic is favored by the assumption of a meal particularly rich in fat (for example of eggs ).
  • Finally, in the abdominal colic of obstructive origin, the pain is localized or diffused in a non-typical location (generally in the lower abdomen).

To learn more: Symptoms Renal Colic

When to consult a doctor

Beyond those listed, the causes of acute abdominal pain are numerous and require careful assessment for this, especially when accompanied by symptoms such as fever, abdominal wall rigidity, intense sweating, hypotension, tachycardia and labored breathing. In all these cases it is important to request a rapid medical intervention.


The treatment of colic is above all symptomatic and as such based on the attenuation of pain and the symptoms associated with it. Generally the doctor recommends a pain-relieving therapy (NSAID), possibly combined with antispasmodics, anti-emetics and antibiotics; rest and dietetic - behavioral interventions complete the picture of aspecific therapeutic measures generally adopted in the presence of colic.


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