Functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders are long-term (chronic) digestive conditions about which little is understood and few (if any) treatment options exist. Motility is defined by the movements of the digestive system, and the transit of the contents within it. Problems occur when nerves or muscles in any portion of the digestive tract do not function with their normal strength and coordination. (1)
Abnormal contractions, of varying frequency and severity, of the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, which may or may not be associated with symptoms. They differ from functional gastrointestinal disorders, which are defined by symptoms that may or may not have dysmotility, but which are also associated with low pain thresholds (visceral hypersensitivity). When occurring in the stomach or small intestine, dysmotility can result in disorders like gastroparesis or with or without symptoms such as bloating, pain, nausea, and vomiting due to either disorganized contractions, or weak contractions. When occurring in the large intestine, dysmotility can result in disorders like Hirschsprung's disease or colonic inertia that can produce symptoms of constipation, or other conditions that cause diarrhea. The abnormal motility involves changes in the contractions that either move or hold back stool. Abnormalities of "dysmotility" can be measured with special motility testing. (2)
1. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. About GI Motility: Hope for Motility Disorders. http://www.aboutgimotility.org/. Accessed Jan. 12, 2013.
2. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Dysmotility (intestinal). http://www.iffgd.org/site/learning-center/glossary. Accessed Jan. 14, 2013.
Reviewed Feb. 4, 2013
Jiande Chen, PhD
Member, International Neuromodulation Society
Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA