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Colon & Rectal Surgical Specialists Of New York

Muscle Spasms and Anal Pain: Arriving at a Diagnosis

By Frank Caliendo M.D. on January 31, 2017

The hands of a doctor and a patient, as the doctor explains the symptoms of proctalgia fugax, the possible source of the patient’s anal painAt Colon & Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York, our accomplished team of compassionate colorectal surgeons uses the most advanced technologies and techniques to treat a comprehensive range of conditions. If you are experiencing anal pain, then it is important that you seek timely diagnosis of your condition. Accurate diagnosis of anal pain is essential to proper and effective treatment of the underlying cause of that pain.

The condition of anal pain caused by spasms of the pelvic floor muscles, anal sphincter muscles, or rectum muscles is called proctalgia fugax. However, proctalgia fugax is a condition that can be diagnosed only by ruling out other, more common conditions such as anal abscesses, anal fissures, rectal ulcers, hemorrhoids, colorectal cancer, and rectal prolapse. All of these conditions can effectively be treated surgically, and some can be treated non-surgically. In some cases, even if proctalgia fugax is diagnosed, it is related to inflammatory bowel disease, which can also be treated both surgically and non-surgically.

If, in diagnosing muscle spasms and anal pain at our Long Island, NY colorectal surgery practice, we determine that a patient has proctalgia fugax, we discuss possible treatment options. Generally, surgery is not indicated for patients with proctalgia fugax, given the absence of other conditions. However, it is often possible to manage symptoms through non-surgical methods.

What Is Proctalgia Fugax?

Proctalgia fugax is a condition marked by extreme anal pain, akin to being stabbed in the rectum. This pain is thought to be caused by spasms of the pelvic floor muscles, anal sphincter muscles, or rectal muscles; however, the precise cause of these spasms is not known. There may be a connection with irritable bowel syndrome, stress, anxiety, depression, and structural abnormalities of the pelvic wall; however, there are no studies showing conclusive links to any of these conditions.

Spasms can last for mere seconds in some people and for up to 20 minutes in others. In the most severe cases, people with chronic proctalgia fugax may experience spasms for days or weeks at a time. The condition is believed to affect up to 18 percent of the population; however, it is also believed that most people with proctalgia fugax do not report their symptoms to their physicians. Proctalgia fugax is more common among women than men, though it affects both genders. It can occur at any age, but is most common among those aged 46 to 58.

Treatments for Proctalgia Fugax

As stated above, if our colorectal surgeons rule out other conditions as the cause of your anal pain and arrive at a diagnosis of proctalgia fugax, we will most likely not recommend surgery. Indeed, most patients with proctalgia fugax do not require treatment as their symptoms are transitory; they come and go so quickly and so sporadically that no treatment would be particularly effective. They simply require reassurance that their symptoms are not indicative of a more serious condition.

In cases of chronic proctalgia fugax, inhaled salbutamol has proven to be effective in reducing the duration of attacks of anal pain. We may also recommend muscle relaxants and pelvic muscle retraining therapy.

Learn More about Muscle Spasms and Anal Pain

To learn more about muscle spasms and anal pain, please contact Colon & Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York today.

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