Functional Bowel and Motility Disorders

Normal digestion requires the muscles in the wall of your intestines to contract and relax in coordination to move food and liquid through your body’s digestive tract. When that process fails, digestion may not progress normally, causing symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea.

View Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Motility disorders are abnormal muscle and nerve contractions that cause spasms or lack of motion anywhere along your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon.

Motility disorders of the esophagus include gastroesophageal reflux disease, esophageal dysmotility and achalasia. Symptoms include heartburn, food sticking in the chest area and non-cardiac chest pain.

Testing may include:

  • Endoscopy
  • Esophageal manometry
  • pH/Impedance study or prolonged esophageal pH monitoring (Bravo study)
  • Barium swallow test

Motility disorders of the stomach occur when the stomach empties too quickly after you eat (dumping syndrome) or too slowly (gastroparesis). Symptoms can include abdominal pain, lightheadedness or nausea, as well as a quick feeling of fullness and vomiting.

Testing may include:

  • Endoscopy
  • Gastric emptying tests

Motility disorders of the small intestine can result in bacterial overgrowth, abdominal pain and bloating and diarrhea.

Testing may include:

  • Small intestinal imaging (barium study or MRI)
  • Breath tests
  • Endoscopy
  • SmartPill motility testing system

Motility disorders of the colon can result in diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.

Testing may include:

  • Transit studies using either radiopaque markers or SmartPill capsule

Our experts will carefully review your symptoms and all prior studies and tailor any additional testing to your specific condition.

Related Services and Treatments

Meet the Team

Additional Team Members

  • Julia Smith, Clinical Case Manager

Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Our expertise in motility disorders is recognized nationally. Our specialists provide advanced endoscopic treatment for conditions such as achalasia and gastroparesis, and our physical therapists have specialized training in managing defecation disorders.

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is one of only a few providers in the region with a program approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that offers domperidone as treatment for gastroparesis. We’re also among a limited number of providers offering motility training to gastroenterology fellows as part of the American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society Clinical Training Program.