Is it cause for concern?

Rectal pain can refer to any pain or discomfort in the anus, rectum, or lower portion of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

This pain is common, and the causes are rarely serious. Oftentimes, it results from a bout of muscle spasms or constipation.

Sometimes, rectal pain is accompanied by other symptoms. These may include:

  • itching
  • stinging
  • discharge
  • bleeding

Read on to learn more about what can cause these symptoms and when to see your doctor. Although minor injuries can sometimes be treated at home, other conditions may require antibiotics or other medication.

1. Minor injury or other trauma

In many cases, trauma or injury to the rectum or anus results from anal play during sex or masturbation. It can also result from a particularly hard fall or injury during other physical activity.

In addition to rectal pain, minor injury can cause:

  • bleeding
  • swelling
  • difficult bowel movements

2. Sexually transmitted disease (STD)

STDs may spread from the genitals to the rectum, or the infection can be transmitted during anal sex.

STDs that may cause rectal pain include:

In addition to rectal pain, anal STDs can cause:

  • minor bleeding
  • itching
  • soreness
  • discharge

3. Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are a very common cause of rectal pain. Nearly three in four adults will experience hemorrhoids in their lifetimes.

The symptoms you experience depend on where the hemorrhoid is. Internal hemorrhoids can develop on the inside of the rectum, but they can protrude through the rectum if they are sufficiently large.

In addition to rectal pain, hemorrhoids can cause:

  • itching or irritation
  • swelling around the anus
  • difficult bowel movements
  • a lump or cyst-like bump near the anus

4. Anal fissures

Anal fissures are small tears in the thin tissue that lines the opening of the rectum. They’re very common, especially in infants and women who have given birth.

Fissures develop when hard or large stools stretch the delicate lining of the rectum and tear the skin. They heal slowly because any bowel movement can further irritate and inflame the tissue.

In addition to rectal pain, anal fissures can cause:

  • bright red blood on stool or toilet paper
  • itching around the anus
  • a small lump or skin tag that develops near the fissure

5. Muscle spasm (proctalgia fugax)

Proctalgia fugax is rectal pain caused by muscle spasms in the rectal muscles. It’s similar to another type of anal pain caused by muscle spasms, levator syndrome.

This condition affects twice as many women as men, and usually occurs in people between 30 and 60 years old. One study estimates that 8 to 18 percent of Americans experience this.

In addition to rectal pain, proctalgia fugax can cause:

  • sudden, severe spasms
  • spasms that last for a few seconds or minutes, or even longer

6. Anal fistula

The anus is surrounded by small glands that secrete oils to keep anal skin lubricated and healthy. If one of these glands becomes blocked, an infected cavity (abscess) may form.

Almost half of abscesses around the anus develop into fistulas, or small tunnels that connect the infected gland to an opening in the anus skin.

In addition to rectal pain, anal fistulas can cause:

  • swelling around the anus and anal opening
  • difficult bowel movements
  • passing blood or pus during bowel movements
  • fever

7. Perianal hematoma

Perianal hematomas are sometimes called external hemorrhoids.

A perianal hematoma occurs when a collection of blood drains into the tissues around the anal opening. When the blood pools, it causes a lump to form at the anal opening.

In addition to rectal pain, perianal hematoma can cause:

  • a lump at the anus
  • bleeding or spotting on tissue paper
  • difficult bowel movements
  • difficulty sitting or walking

8. Solitary rectal ulcer syndrome

Solitary rectal ulcer syndrome is a condition that leads to the development of ulcers in the rectum. Ulcers are open sores that can bleed and drain.

It’s not clear what causes this rare syndrome, but researchers believe it’s related to chronic constipation.

In addition to rectal pain, solitary rectal ulcer syndrome can cause:

  • constipation
  • straining when passing stool
  • bleeding or other discharge
  • feeling fullness or pressure in the pelvis
  • feeling as if you’re unable to empty all stool from your rectum
  • inability to control bowel movements

9. Thrombosed hemorrhoid

Hemorrhoids are very common. Occasionally, a blood clot can develop in an external hemorrhoid. This is known as thrombosis.

The external clot may feel like a hardened lump that’s tender to the touch. Although these clots aren’t dangerous, they can be extremely painful.

In addition to rectal pain, a thrombosed hemorrhoid can cause:

  • itching and irritation around the anus
  • swelling or lumps around the anus
  • bleeding when passing stool

10. Tenesmus

Tenesmus is rectal pain caused by cramping. It’s often associated with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

However, it can occur in people who don’t have a diagnosed IBD. In these cases, specific movement or motility disorders of the GI tract may be to blame. The most common motility disorders are constipation and diarrhea.

In addition to rectal pain, tenesmus can cause:

  • cramping in and near the rectum
  • feeling the need to have a bowel movement, even after you’ve had one
  • straining harder but producing a smaller amount of stool

11. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

IBD is a group of intestinal disorders that can cause inflammation, pain, and bleeding in the digestive tract, including the rectum.

The two most common IBDs are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). Those two conditions affect nearly 3 million American adults.

Symptoms of IBD depend largely on the type of IBD you have. The symptoms can also change over time, as the condition worsens or improves.

In addition to rectal pain, IBDs like Crohn’s disease and UC can cause:

  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • blood in stool
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • reduced appetite
  • unintended weight loss

12. Proctitis

Proctitis causes inflammation in the lining of the rectum. Although it’s common in people with IBD, it can affect anyone. STDs can also cause proctitis, and it can even be the result of radiation therapy for cancer.

In addition to rectal pain, proctitis can cause:

  • diarrhea
  • feeling of fullness or pressure in the rectum
  • feeling as if you need to pass stool, even when you just had a bowel movement
  • bleeding or other discharge

13. Perianal or perirectal abscess

The rectum and anus are surrounded by glands or cavities. If bacteria, fecal matter, or foreign matter get into the cavities, they can become infected and fill with pus.

In fact, 90 percent of the infected cavities (abscesses) are the result of an infection in these internal glands.

If the infection grows worse, the gland may develop a tunnel through the nearby tissue and crease a fistula.

In addition to rectal pain, perianal or perirectal abscess can cause:

  • redness of the skin around the anus
  • fever
  • bleeding
  • swelling around the anus and in the rectum
  • painful urination
  • difficulty starting a urine stream

14. Fecal impaction

Fecal impaction is a common GI problem that can lead to rectal pain. Chronic constipation can lead to impacted feces, which is a mass of hardened stool in the rectum.

Although fecal impaction is more common in older adults, it can occur at any age.

In addition to rectal pain, fecal impaction can cause:

  • abdominal pain
  • distention or bloating in the abdomen and rectum
  • nausea
  • vomiting

15. Rectal prolapse

Rectal prolapse occurs when your body loses the attachments that hold the rectum in place in your GI tract. When this happens, the rectum may protrude out from the anus.

Rectal prolapse is rare. It’s most common in adults, and women are six times more likely to develop this condition than men. However, the average age of a woman with rectal prolapse is 60, while the age is 40 for men.

In addition to rectal pain, rectal prolapse can cause:

  • a mass of tissue extending from the anus
  • stool or mucus passing freely from the anal opening
  • fecal incontinence
  • constipation
  • bleeding

16. Levator syndrome

Levator syndrome (levator ani syndrome) is a condition that causes aching or pain in and around the anus. The pain is a result of muscle spasms in the pelvic floor muscles.

Although women are more likely to be affected, it’s still possible for men to develop the syndrome.

In addition to rectal pain, levator syndrome can cause:

  • pain on the left side of the abdomen
  • pain in the vagina
  • bloating
  • bladder pain
  • pain with urination
  • urinary incontinence
  • painful intercourse

Causes affecting women

Women may be impacted by any of the previous conditions. They are also more likely than men to experience rectal pain as a result of levator syndrome.

Causes affecting men

Men may experience rectal pain from any of the previous conditions. There aren’t any conditions or causes specifically tied to men.

Is it cancer?

Rarely. Anal, colorectal, and colon cancers are almost always painless. In fact, they may cause no symptoms at all. The first signs of pain or discomfort may come if the tumors grow large enough to push on tissue or an organ.

The most common symptoms of rectal cancer include rectal bleeding, itching, and feeling a lump or mass near the anal opening.

But these symptoms are more commonly caused by other conditions, including abscesses and hemorrhoids. If you have any concerns, it’s always wise to check with your doctor. They can assess your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.

When to see your doctor

Occasional rectal pain is rarely a cause for immediate concern. But if you’re experiencing rectal pain with regularity, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment to see your doctor.

You should see your doctor right away if you’re experiencing rectal pain that worsens or spreads into the lower half of your body. You should also see your doctor if you have:

  • fever
  • chills
  • anal discharge
  • consistent bleeding