This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
Obstinate costiveness, with a vomiting of acrid bile, pains about, the region of the navel, and shooting from thence to each side with great violence, strong convulsive spasms in the intestines and abdominal muscles, with a tendency to paralysis of the extremities, are the characteristics of this disease.
It is occasioned by long-continued costiveness, by an accumulation of acrid bile, by cold applied either to the extremities or to the belly itself, by a free use of unripe fruits, by great irregularity in the mode of living, by acrid food or drink, such as sour wines or cider, and by the inhalation of vapours arising from incited lead, frequently handling some of its chemical preparations; hence painters and glaziers are frequently attacked by it.
This description of Colic comes on gradually, with a pain at the pit of the stomach, extending downwards to the intestines, particularly round the navel, accompanied by eructations, slight sickness at the stomach, thirst, anxiety, obstinate costiveness, a frequent but ineffectual desire to evacuate the contents of the bowels, and a quick, contracted pulse, seldom exceeding, however, 100 in a minute. After a short time the pains increase considerably in violence, the whole region of the belly is highly painful to the touch, the-muscles of the abdomen are contracted into hard, irregular knots or lumps, and appear drawn towards the spine; the intestines themselves exhibit symptoms of violent spasm, so that a clyster can hardly be injected; and there is constant restlessness, with frequent vomiting, more particularly after taking food or medicine.
Upon a further increase of the symptoms, or their not being quickly alleviated, the spasms become more frequent as well as violent, the costiveness proves unconquerable, and inflammation of the intestines follows, which soon destroys the patient by terminating in mortification.
Due attention will be necessary in order to distinguish accurately between Dry Belly-ache and Inflammation of the bowels. The symptoms which characterize the former and distinguish it from the latter are these: the pain at first is rather more in the pit of the stomach; it afterwards fixes itself at the navel, and from thence darts in all directions over the belly, accompanied by such spasmodic action of the muscles as to oblige the patient to lean forward, as the only posture in which he feels easy, while at the same time the circulation does not appear to be affected. In Inflammation of the bowels the belly is swelled, hard, and painful, but the pain seems concentrated, and does not diverge as in those spasmodic twitchings or dartings observed in Painter's Colic; moreover, there is little or no spasm. In Painter's Colic too there is soon perceived a disposition to paralysis in the extremities, and often a contraction of the joints, which never take place in Inflammation of the bowels.
Dry Belly-ache is generally attended with some degree of danger, which is always in proportion to the violence of the symptoms, and the duration of the disease. Even when it does not prove fatal, it is too apt to terminate in palsy, and to leave behind it, contractions of the hands and feet. When this complaint is produced by lead, it is more obstinate, and longer protracted than when brought on by other causes.
Our first endeavour must be directed to abating the spasms, and preventing the risk of inflammation. This will be best effected by hot fomentations with flannels wrung out of hot water, after which a large mustard poultice may be applied to the belly, and kept there till a considerable amount of redness is produced, or till the symptoms are relieved. A dose of Ten grains of Calomel and One grain of Opium may be taken, and may be repeated in a few hours, if the spasms do not subside. A clyster of a pint or a pint and a-half of warm Linseed Oil may be given, and this may be repeated unless it effectually empties the bowels. About six hours after the Calomel and Opium have been taken, an Ounce of Castor Oil, beaten up with the yolk of an egg, and diluted with four ounces of water, to which 25 drops of Laudanum have been added, may be taken. The patient, as soon as spasms are abated, may drink plentifully of oatmeal gruel, mutton broth, or beef tea.
During the continuance of the spasms some benefit is said to have resulted from friction with an ointment containing opium and camphor; the following preparation may be tried:
Take Camphor in fine powder............Halfa Dram,
Opium..........................................Half a Dram.
Lard (fresh),..................................One Ounce. -Mix, and rub in well, with the hand, for half an hour.
The application of a poultice of Tobacco on the belly, is said to have been of service in some cases.
A late medical author says:-"Two obstinate cases of Dry Bellyache, arising from exposures to cold,very lately came under my care, which resisted fomentations, the warm bath, anodyne and tobacco clysters, the internal use of Opium and cathartics, and which at last were readily and quickly removed by placing the patients in a large tub, and throwing a pail of cold water over the abdomen and thighs. The operation was not required a second time, for copious evacuations soon took place in both cases, after which the spasmodic affection was prevented from returning by small doses of Opium, repeated from time to time."
Persons, after recovering from an attack of Dry Belly-ache, should be careful in their diet, clothe warmly, take a warm bath occasionally, and avoid the causes that formerly brought on the disease.