Digestive symptoms suggestive of intestinal motor disorders, such as abdominal pain and distension, fullness, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea, are very common and non-specific, and may be clinical manifestations of both organic and functional diseases. Both radiology and endoscopy are important in the diagnosis of structural gastrointestinal lesions that can affect motility and offer indirect signs of impaired gastrointestinal functions, but the diagnosis of gut motility disorders currently relies on the manometric assessment of contractile activities. Small bowel manometry helps to identify normal motility features and consequently to identify abnormal motor patterns. Small bowel manometry can help to differentiate mechanical obstruction from pseudo-obstruction and neurogenic from myogenic motor disorders. Manometry is an invasive technique which is not well accepted by patients and requires specific skills from investigators. Also, manometric assessment is limited to referral centres with a specific interest in the field of digestive functions, in general, and motility, in particular. Only patients who remain undiagnosed after extensive traditional work-up and fail repeated courses with medical therapy should be referred for the manometric test. Understanding the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms of abnormal motility and developing new therapies are the goals of the current research in this fascinating field of medicine.