Antispasmodic medicines are used to treat symptoms such as tummy pain and cramp (spasm). They are most used for symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The side-effects that may occur are usually minor.
Antispasmodics are a group (class) of medicines that can help to control some symptoms that arise from the gut (intestines) - in particular, gut spasm.
There are two main types, as follows.
- Smooth muscle relaxants
The movement of food along your gut (intestines) happens because some of the muscles in the gut tense (contract) and then relax in a regular pattern throughout the length of the gut. These muscle contractions are brought about by various chemicals produced by your body which stick to special 'docking' sites (receptors) on the muscles.
However, in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) these muscle contractions can occur too often or be painful, causing symptoms such as pain and bloating.
Antimuscarinics work by attaching to the receptors and in this way stopping the chemicals from 'docking' there to make the muscle contract. Reducing the muscle contractions in this way often helps to relieve some of the symptoms caused by IBS.
Because muscarinic receptors are also found in other parts of the body, taking an antimuscarinic can have other effects. For example, muscarinic receptors also help to control the production of saliva in the mouth. Taking a medicine that blocks these receptors may cause a dry mouth.
Smooth muscle relaxants work directly on the smooth muscle in the wall of the gut. Here they help to relax the muscle and relieve the pain associated with a contraction of the gut.