While the term “proctalgia fugax” (pronounced proh-TAL-ja few-gacks) may sound completely obscure, the rectal condition actually affects up to 18 percent of Americans. The Latin term literally translates to “fleeting rectal pain” and is characterized by intensely painful, sporadic rectal or anal spasms that last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Sometimes described as feeling like a severe muscle cramp or like a knife is shoved up one’s rear end, proctalgia fugax is extremely unpleasant to experience. However, home remedies can help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort.
One of two primary functional anorectal pain syndromes, proctalgia fugax occurs as a result of cramping of the levator ani muscle. Attacks are more common in the middle of the night, but they can occur during the daytime as well. The pain is usually so intense that patients must stop what they were doing and attempt to alleviate the discomfort or wait until the spasm subsides. While these episodes typically only occur a few times per year, some patients have reported feeling pain almost everyday. While attacks are technically spontaneous and unpredictable, certain lifestyle factors such as stress, anxiety, excessive sitting and defecation may trigger episodes.
Roughly 80 percent of patients suffering from proctalgia fugax do not seek medical attention due to the infrequency of their attacks, and the condition, thankfully, does not cause lasting damage. However, it’s helpful to know some effective pain reliever options, as well as lifestyle changes to potentially prevent future attacks.
Medications: Topical glyceryl nitrate (pain-relieving drug), nerve blockers, muscle relaxers, hemorrhoid creams
Warm baths: To relax the anal muscles and potentially reduce the chance of spasms
More potassium: Food like bananas, cantaloupe, spinach, potatoes and oranges are rich in potassium and can aid in preventing spasms
More vegetables: More vegetables and whole grains mean more fiber and less chance of constipation, which in turn reduces straining of the anal muscles. Natural vegetable powder can also help produce softer stool
Relaxation techniques: Reduce stress and anxiety via meditation, deep-breathing exercises and yoga
Pelvic muscle retraining: Pelvic muscle exercises, such as kegel exercises, can help strengthen and relax muscles in that area.