Proctalgia fugax refers to the sudden onset of severe pain in the rectal area, which can last from seconds to minutes. The pain is sporadic and can be without warning. Possible causes include stress, constipation, or an abscess.

The condition is also known as functional recurrent anorectal pain. It is part of a group of disorders that affect the workings of the stomach and intestine.

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People with proctalgia fugax may experience sudden and severe muscle cramps in their anal canal that can cause sharp, stabbing pains.

These bouts of pain may last only a few seconds but can last for up to 30 minutes.

These spasms can occur at any time of the day, and some people may experience several episodes of anal pain and then go long periods without any problems.

The exact cause of proctalgia fugax is unclear, but the pain is due to muscles in the anal canal and pelvic floor tightening suddenly.

This muscle tightening is called spasming. Spasms often occur in the smooth muscles of the anal canal and the anal sphincter.

Though proctalgia can occur without warning, the condition does have many triggers. These triggers can include:

Proctalgia fugax may be more likely to occur after treatments for certain other conditions. These treatments include sclerotherapy for hemorrhoids and vaginal hysterectomy.

Muscle tension and twitching are natural responses to stressful situations.

These responses may cause a person’s anal muscles to tense or cramp during periods of anxiety or emotional stress, leading to proctalgia symptoms.

To diagnose proctalgia fugax, a doctor will primarily assess the severity and duration of a person’s symptoms. Proctalgia fugax causes sharp, stabbing pain for 30 minutes or less, whereas chronic proctalgia causes duller pain for a longer duration.

However, as symptoms vary from person to person and are similar to other medical conditions, doctors will also rule out similar conditions before making a definite diagnosis.

Diagnosis involves a thorough medical examination, including of the genital region. The doctor may also order blood tests and an endoscopy to look at the bowel lining. An endoscopy test is when a doctor puts a small flexible tube into the body that has a light and camera.

Other causes of anorectal pain include:

Levator ani syndrome is a type of functional anorectal pain similar to proctalgia fugax.

The levator ani muscle is a complex structure in the lower pelvis. A person may experience pain in this muscle due to spasmodic contractions. These can result from injury in or around the pelvis, torso, or back.

Pain from levator ani syndrome is typically more constant than proctalgia fugax pain. For a doctor to diagnose functional anorectal pain, a person must experience pain for at least 6 months, with episodes typically lasting longer than 30 minutes.

Proctalgia fugax does not cause any lasting damage to people, but it is painful. Treatment focuses mostly on pain relief.

There are treatment options that may help to relax the anal muscles and keep them from spasming. These include:

The effectiveness of these treatments can vary greatly. As the proctalgia fugax episodes can occur without warning and last a short time, medication often does not take effect in time.

Home remedies

There are some natural treatment remedies that people can try to help relieve the pain:

  • Diet: Staying adequately hydrated and consuming a balanced diet rich in fiber can help to keep stools soft and pass regularly. This can reduce stress on the anal passage.
  • Stool softeners: These can assist in the easy passing of stools.
  • Pelvic muscle retraining: If voluntary muscles are in spasm, a person may be able to train their muscles to relax by doing certain exercises.
  • Warm baths: May help relax the anal sphincter and reduce the spasms and pain associated with proctalgia fugax.
  • Relaxation techniques: Stress relievers such as meditation, deep-breathing exercises, and yoga may help to relieve anxiety and stress.

Treatment for anorectal pain syndromes varies depending on the type. Many conditions heal on their own over time.

Over-the-counter creams and pain relievers work for many people. In some instances, antibiotics may be necessary to treat infections. Surgery or other procedures may also be needed.

Proctalgia fugax is not life threatening, but people should seek immediate treatment if their anal pain does not go away within a few days or if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • a large amount of continuous rectal bleeding that may be accompanied by lightheadedness or dizziness
  • anal pain that does not get better after several days or seems to worsen
  • anal pain that spreads in addition to fever, chills, or anal discharge
  • severe pain

People should also pay attention to any changes in bowel movements to identify potential triggers or stressors. Rectal bleeding is especially dangerous as it can be a sign of colon cancer.

Proctalgia fugax is sharp, stabbing pain in the rectum area with no apparent cause. It often lasts for a few seconds but can last for up to 30 minutes.

The condition is self-remedying and is typically not a cause for concern.