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Proctalgia fugax is an intense pain around the rectum which can last for a few seconds to several minutes. The pain is caused by cramping of muscles around the rectum such as the pubococcygeus muscle, and sometimes may be located in the levator ani muscles. This condition is quite common although many patients do not report it, perhaps due to feeling shy about discussing the region of the body involved.
Most people who experience proctalgia fugax have only a few fleeting episodes each year. The pain can last up to 20 minutes, and may be accompanied with spasming and cramping. It can feel like a bowel movement is in progress, but this is not actually the case. This condition, while painful, is benign and is not usually a sign of a more serious medical problem. If the cramps are prolonged and higher up in the rectum, the patient may have levator ani syndrome, a related condition.
Commonly, people develop proctalgia fugax at night. There are a number of ways in which people can deal with the painful muscle spasms. Taking a hot bath or sitting on a hot water bottle sometimes help, as does applying pressure by sitting on an object such as a wrapped tennis ball. Massage around the region of the anus can also relieve the pain, as can careful stretching. Some people also experience relief when they take analgesic medications which are designed to be fast acting.
There is no cure for proctalgia fugax, but patients may find that diet and lifestyle adjustments can help to address the problem. Sometimes muscles cramp because of dietary insufficiency, and consuming a more varied diet with vitamins and minerals like potassium may help resolve muscle cramps. Stretching regularly can also encourage muscles to elongate and strengthen so that they are less likely to cramp.
This condition is not necessarily a cause for concern, but a patient can bring it up with a doctor if there are worries. Doctors are accustomed to dealing with a wide range of symptoms and body parts and while this region of the body is one which patients may feel embarrassed about discussing, a doctor may be able to provide reassurance. If the cramping is accompanied with symptoms elsewhere in the body, it may be a symptom of an underlying medical issue which may need to be addressed. Resolving the problem will also usually fix the proctalgia fugax.