What is colic abdominal pain

Umbilical colic

Umbilical colic(functional abdominal pain): Recurring abdominal pain in the umbilical region for no tangible cause.

Especially children of late kindergarten and primary school age suffer from umbilical colic; Girls are more often affected than boys. In 3- to 10-year-olds, umbilical colic is the most common cause of pain; the affected children have abdominal pain at least once a week for at least 8 weeks.

Leading complaints

  • Repeated, sudden, often severe abdominal pain in the umbilical region, often lasting only minutes to 1 hour. The child is healthy and symptom-free between attacks of abdominal pain
  • Pain persists for more than 2 months and occurs more than once a week
  • Pain is only around the navel and does not radiate
  • Frequent side effects are z. B. paleness, sweating, or headache.

When to the doctor

In the next few days if

  • Your child has had the above symptoms several times recently.

Today if

  • the abdominal pain does not subside.
  • Your child vomits several times.

Immediately if

  • Abdominal pain that started in the umbilical region has moved to the right lower abdomen; in this case appendicitis is suspected.
  • your child's tummy becomes increasingly hard, or the child becomes apathetic (listless).

The illness

As common as umbilical colic is, the doctors have so far not understood it. Apparently, some children tend to react to stressful situations of any kind with cramping of the intestines - regardless of whether it is the uncomfortable "appointment" at the dentist or a longed-for event such as a children's birthday party.


The primary cause of umbilical colic is suspected to be gastric motility disorders. Motility is the rhythmic contraction and relaxation of the muscles in the stomach and intestines so that the food is transported on. Motility disorders lead to delayed gastric emptying or insufficient relaxation of the gastrointestinal tract after eating.

Likewise, too rapid gastric emptying in connection with a slow transit time through the intestines causes abdominal pain. Gut transit time measures how long it takes for food to pass through the digestive tract.

Diagnostic assurance

Abdominal pain is an indication of life-threatening illnesses, but also of harmless complaints or, in smaller children, the simple perception that something is happening and moving in the intestine. Because of this, the doctor will examine the child to rule out other causes of the abdominal pain, such as: B. constipation, an incipient gastrointestinal infection or appendicitis.

The examination findings for umbilical colic are normal: the child's abdomen is soft, there is no clearly localizable pressure pain, the child has no fever and moves without pain. Listening to the stomach shows that the bowel is working normally. Further examinations are only necessary in exceptional cases, e.g. B. an ultrasound, necessary. Umbilical colic is always a diagnosis of exclusion, i.e. if other gastrointestinal complaints are present at the same time (e.g. constipation or diarrhea), this is more likely to indicate other causes (e.g. chronic constipation or a gastrointestinal infection) . Nocturnal abdominal pain (i.e. waking up from sleep due to pain) or poor growth exclude umbilical colic, they always have different causes.


Medication is only necessary in exceptional cases for umbilical colic.

Instead, the focus is on psychological support for children and young people and family members. In difficult and protracted cases, psychotherapeutic treatment in the form of pain management programs should be considered.


In most children, the abdominal pain "grows together" again. However, some still or again complain of abdominal pain in adulthood for which no tangible cause can be found. A common diagnosis in adults is then "irritable bowel syndrome".

Your pharmacy recommends

What you can do as a parent


Umbilical colic probably arises from the interplay of stressful situations and the - possibly genetic - willingness to react to such situations with abdominal discomfort. Accordingly, treatment primarily consists of patient waiting, which is made easier by a calm environment.

Abdominal massage.

A gentle massage of the abdomen (warm your hands beforehand) is a good way to get a grip on the unpleasant feelings in the abdomen. Not only are the pain "processed", but there is also a positive psychological effect through closeness and touching of mother or father.


A hot water bottle, a warm cherry stone pillow or warm, moist belly wraps provide relief.

Imaginary journey.

One study found that listening to CDs with simple meditation techniques such as imaginary travel alleviated children's abdominal pain. The children's imagination is stimulated by describing pleasant pictures to them. Relaxation techniques and behavioral therapies do the same, but their application is usually costly and time-consuming. Listening to a CD, on the other hand, is easy to do.


Painkillers are not a solution for children, and they only work after about 20 minutes - and then the colic is usually over.


Older children from the age of 8 or 10 have been shown to benefit from exercises to reduce stress such as children's yoga or autogenic training.


Probiotics (lactic acid bacteria) seem to alleviate the symptoms.

Complementary medicine

Chamomile and fennel.

The most effective medicinal plants for umbilical colic are chamomile and fennel. Chamomile has a relaxing and calming effect and also helps as a tea. Chamomile or fennel oil can be massaged in during a stomach massage, and chamomile is also a tried and tested additive for the stomach wrap.


The seeds of the flax are considered to be calming and beneficial for the stomach. For a flax seed wrap, 1 cup full of flax seeds is put in a saucepan, covered with water and boiled. Then the warm pulp is spread in the middle of a kitchen towel the size of a hand-plate, the edges of the towel are folded over and the finished envelope is placed on the painful area for 2–3 hours - until the mass has cooled down.


As a homeopathic remedy, Chamomilla D6 - real chamomile - is worth a try.


Dr. med. Herbert Renz-Polster in: Gesundheit heute, edited by Dr. med. Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). Revision and update of the sections "Description", "Symptoms and leading complaints", "The disease", "Your pharmacy recommends", "Medical treatment" and "Prognosis": Dagmar Fernholz | last changed on at 10:27

Important note: This article has been written according to scientific standards and has been checked by medical professionals. The information communicated in this article can in no way replace professional advice in your pharmacy. The content cannot and must not be used to make independent diagnoses or to start therapy.