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Rectal Pain

Rectal Pain Overview

Rectal pain is a common problem. Most people have experienced it at least once in their lifetime. It usually appears as a mild discomfort, but sometimes the pain can be so severe that it is incapacitating.

Rectal Pain Causes

Many conditions can cause rectal pain. Most of these are not serious.

Common causes of rectal pain include:

  • Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids (painful swelling of a vein or veins at the anus) are a common problem affecting up to 25% of American adults. They are usually caused by straining during bowel movements. Heavy lifting and childbirth are also common causes.
  • Anal fissure: An anal fissure is a small tear in the skin at the opening of the rectum. It is caused when a large, hard stool is passed, with excessive stretching of the anus. This problem can also occur in people whose anal sphincter tone (the muscle that controls the anal opening) is too tight and cannot relax to pass the stool.
  • Proctalgia fugax: Proctalgia fugax is a condition associated with fleeting rectal pain and occurs in 8% of Americans. This disorder occurs more commonly in women and in people younger than 45 years of age. Although the exact cause of the pain is not known, many doctors believe spasm of the anal sphincter muscle is the responsible factor.
  • Levator ani syndrome: Levator ani syndrome affects 6% of the US population and occurs in women slightly more often than in men. The term levator ani refers to the group of muscles that surround and support the anus. Spasm of these muscles is believed to cause rectal pain.

Less frequent causes of rectal pain include:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2014
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