Diseases & Conditions A - Z
powered by Talix


What Is Tenesmus?

Tenesmus refers to cramping, rectal pain. Tenesmus gives you the feeling that you need to have a bowel movement, even if you already have had one. When you have tenesmus, you might strain harder to produce only a small amount of stool during bowel movements.

What Causes This Symptom?

Tenesmus is most often caused by one of a number of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). An IBD causes long-term inflammation in all or some parts of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract or digestive tract. The most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cause you to have ulcerations in your GI tract. These ulcers cause scarring along the walls of your digestive organs. This scarring can make it harder for you to pass your stool normally, which can lead to tenesmus. If you have Crohn’s disease, these ulcer ations can spread throughout your GI tract. In the case of ulcerative colitis, these ulcers are located only in your colon and rectum.

What causes these inflammatory bowel diseases is not known, but genetics and the immune system are thought to play a part. Doctors believe your immune system might cause your digestive tract to become inflamed while fighting off an invading organism. You’re more likely to develop IBD if you also have a relative with the disease. However, a genetic history of IBD does not guarantee that you will develop an inflammatory bowel disease .

Less Common Causes

Though inflammatory bowel diseases are the most common causes of tenesmus, your symptom could be caused by a number of other conditions. Certain movement or motility disorders of the GI tract can cause problems when you try to pass a stool. Some of the most common motility disorders are constipation and diarrhea. Constipation is a problem that occurs when there is difficulty during bowel movements. The condition might also cause a lack of bowel movements. Constipation can lead to straining and infrequent bowel movements. Other possible causes include:

  • colon cancer
  • rectal abscesses
  • colon infection

When Should I Call My Doctor?

If you experience tenesmus often, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Also, tell your doctor if you’re having abdominal pain or blood in your stool. Make sure you report vomiting, a fever, or chills to your doctor as well.

What Can Be Done About My Symptom?

If you are struggling with tenesmus, there are a number of treatment options available. In most cases, your symptom can be relieved using home remedies.

Treatment at Home

If an IBD or motility disorder is causing your symptoms, you can help relieve your cramps and discomfort by making some diet and lifestyle changes. Eating a diet that is high in fiber is one of the best ways to relieve your tenesmus. Eating at least 20 grams of fiber every day will make your stool softer and add weight to it. This helps your body pass the stool more easily. If you have ulcers or scarring in your GI tract, you should be able to pass a softer stool more easily and with less pain. Drinking enough water is important in making sure your stool is soft as well.

Physical activity stimulates movement in your intestines. Exercising regularly can help your tenesmus by helping your intestines move your waste through your GI tract. These home treatment options also double as great tenesmus prevention methods.

Medical Treatment

Depending on the cause of your tenesmus, medical treatment may vary.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Medical treatment of IBD is aimed at stopping the inflammation that causes your symptoms. Because of this, anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce your inflammation are usually the first step in treatment. Medications that lower your immune system might also be used when treating IBD. Antibiotics might be prescribed, depending on your particular case. Doctors believe that antibiotics help kill bacteria in your intestines that could be causing your IBD and tenesmus.

Motility Disorders

If diarrhea has caused your tenesmus, your doctor might treat your condition with antibiotics. Antibiotics are effective in fighting bacteria and parasites, but if a virus is the cause of your diarrhea antibiotics won’t be effective . Your doctor might take you off certain medications if they cause your diarrhea.

If constipation led to your tenesmus, laxatives and medications that help add water to your stool might be an option for you. In more severe cases, your doctor might break up the compacted stool manually. This is done by breaking up the stool using his or her finger.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Carmella Winton: Nov 14, 2016

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
Symptom Search
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Drug Interaction Checker
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Pill Identifier
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Drugs A-Z
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.



Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits AT&T Wireless Cell Phone

Members save 10% on the monthly service charge of qualified AT&T wireless plans.

Member Benefit AARP Regal 2

Members pay $9.50 for Regal ePremiere Tickets purchased online.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members earn points on select Walgreens-brand health and wellness products.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.