The rectum is the section of the digestive tract above the anus where stool is held before it passes out of the body through the anus. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract where stool leaves the body. (See also Overview of the Anus and Rectum.)
Proctalgia fugax is fleeting pain in the rectum. Coccydynia is pain near the tailbone (coccyx). Both of these disorders are variations of levator syndrome.
It is not known why the levator ani muscle spasms. The muscle spasm causes pain that typically is not related to defecation. The pain usually lasts less than 20 minutes. Pain may be brief and intense or a vague ache high in the rectum. It may occur spontaneously or with sitting and can waken a person from sleep. The pain may feel as if it would be relieved by the passage of gas or a bowel movement. In severe cases, the pain can persist for many hours and can recur frequently. A person may have undergone various unsuccessful rectal operations to relieve these symptoms.
The doctor explains that this condition is not life-threatening or severe. An episode may be relieved by the passage of gas or a bowel movement or by a mild pain reliever (such as aspirin). An episode may also be relieved by soaking the anus in warm (not hot) water in what is known as a sitz bath. The soaking is accomplished by squatting or sitting for 10 to 15 minutes in a partially filled tub or using a container filled with warm water placed on the toilet bowl or commode.
When the symptoms of levator syndrome are more intense, people can undergo physical therapy of the pelvis.