Tenesmus refers to cramping rectal pain. Tenesmus gives you the feeling that
you need to have a bowel movement, even if you already have had one. When you
have tenesmus, you might strain harder to produce only a small amount of stool
during bowel movements.
Any number of inflammatory
bowel diseases (IBDs) can cause tenesmus. An IBD causes long-term
inflammation in all or some parts of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or
digestive tract. The most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease
Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cause you to have ulcerations in
your GI tract. These ulcers cause scarring along the walls of your digestive
organs. This scarring can make it harder for you to pass your stool normally,
which can lead to tenesmus. If you have Crohn’s disease, these ulcerations can
spread throughout your GI tract. In the case of ulcerative colitis, these
ulcers are located only in your colon and rectum.
What causes these IBDs is not known. Both genetics and the immune system are
thought to play a part.
You’re more likely to develop IBD if you also have a relative with the
disease. But a genetic history of IBD does not guarantee that you will develop
Doctors believe that your digestive tract might become inflamed in the
process of your immune system fighting off an invading organism.
Less common causes
While IBDs are the most common causes of tenesmus, your symptoms can be
caused by a number of other conditions. Certain movement or motility disorders
of the GI tract can cause problems when you try to pass a stool. These
disorders can affect the ability of your intestinal system to move your waste
along. Some of the most common motility disorders are constipation and
Constipation is a problem that occurs when there is difficulty during bowel
movements. The condition might also cause a lack of bowel movements.
Constipation can lead to straining and infrequent bowel movements. Possible
causes of constipation include:
- colon cancer
- rectal abscesses
- colon infection
Diarrhea is the rapid and frequent expulsion of feces in liquid form.
Many disorders and diseases can cause diarrhea, including:
should I call my doctor?
If you experience tenesmus often, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Be
sure to tell them about any:
- abdominal pain
- blood in your stool
can be done about my symptom?
If you are struggling with tenesmus, there are a number of treatment options
available. In most cases, your symptom can be relieved using home remedies.
Treatment at home
If an IBD or motility disorder is causing your symptoms, you can help
relieve your cramps and discomfort by making some diet and lifestyle changes. These
home treatment options also double as great tenesmus prevention methods.
Eating a diet that is high in fiber is one of the best ways to relieve your
tenesmus. Eating at least 20 grams of fiber every day will make your stool
softer and add weight to it. This helps your body pass the stool more easily.
If you have ulcers or scarring in your GI tract, you should be able to pass a
softer stool more easily and with less pain.
Drinking enough water is important in making sure your stool is soft as
Physical activity stimulates movement in your intestines. Exercising
regularly can help your tenesmus by helping your intestines move your waste
through your GI tract.
Medical treatment will vary depending on the cause of your tenesmus.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Medical treatment of IBD is aimed at stopping the inflammation that causes
your symptoms. The following medications might be prescribed:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce your
inflammation are usually the first step in treatment.
- Medications that lower your immune system might
also be used when treating IBD.
- Antibiotics might be prescribed to help kill
bacteria in your intestines that could be causing your IBD and tenesmus.
If diarrhea has caused your tenesmus, your doctor might treat your condition
with antibiotics, which are effective in fighting bacteria and parasites. If a
virus is the cause of your diarrhea, antibiotics won’t be effective. Your
doctor might take you off certain medications if they cause your diarrhea.
If constipation led to your tenesmus, laxatives and medications that help
add water to your stool. These might be an option for you. In more severe
cases, your doctor might break up the compacted stool manually. Your doctor
will do this by breaking up the stool using their finger.