Period pain in your bottom: what is proctalgia fugax?
Have you ever been on your period, going about your day, when you suddenly feel a severe, sharp, stabbing pain coming from your bottom?
You might feel the pressure and pain for a few seconds or even minutes before it disappears – leaving you completely confused! Well, you might have just experienced proctalgia fugax.
Periods can be a real pain in the bottom – literally! Most of us have been through it all – hormonal acne, heavy bleeding, PMS mood swings, menstrual cramps… you name it. But there is one period symptom that might catch us off guard: proctalgia fugax.
Also known as fleeting rectal pain, proctalgia fugax is aching or cramping that you feel around your bottom caused by muscle spasms in your rectum. What you experience is brief episodes of sudden, spiky rectal pain that come without any warning.
So, if you’ve ever felt like your bottom got struck by lightning – no, you’re not going crazy, it might just be that you’re experiencing proctalgia fugax. But why does it happen and most importantly, can you do anything about it? Let’s find out…
What causes proctalgia fugax?
Although the exact cause of proctalgia fugax is unknown, there are several factors that could trigger this condition, including sex, stress, constipation, and pooping.  It’s estimated that up to 18% of us may experience it at some point in our lives.  Nonetheless, many women+ experience it due to the menstrual cycle, in particular around their period.
During periods, our bodies release hormones called prostaglandins that cause the muscles of the uterus to contract and help shed the lining. Such contractions are what we sometimes feel as period pain. Well, these hormones can also have the same effect on our bowels and digestive system, causing the rectum and pelvic floor muscles around our bottom to contract, triggering muscle spasms and butthole cramps.
Period poop might also be a culprit. Right before our period, our estrogen and progesterone levels tend to drop dramatically. Since progesterone controls how things move through our digestive tracts, a drop in this hormone level might cause us to get diarrhea or constipation. Pooping more frequently as well as having a harder time doing it might trigger a bout of cramps.
Although it can be surprising and come at the most inconvenient times, the pain from proctalgia fugax usually lasts only a few moments. However, if it keeps you up all night or if the pain lasts for longer than 20 minutes at a time, a visit to your doctor might be worth considering.
What are the symptoms of proctalgia fugax?
The main symptom of proctalgia fugax is pain in your bottom that can be pretty strong, but (thankfully) only temporary. It can be varied and no two people will experience it the same way. Some describe it as an intensely sharp, shooting, or stabbing pain in the rectal area that happens suddenly and without warning. It can be painful enough to wake you up if it strikes while you snooze, or cause you to yelp out if you feel it during the day. The pain usually lasts from only a few seconds to a couple of minutes, however, it can last for longer in some cases.
Although it’s quite literally a pain in the bottom, proctalgia fugax is not known to be harmful or dangerous, so try not to worry too much. Odd and annoying as it may be, it’s just another part of living with periods!
Can you get proctalgia fugax during pregnancy?
Proctalgia fugax can be caused by contractions while giving birth, but it’s most common during the third trimester of pregnancy, at a time when the baby is larger and can put pressure on your anal nerves. It can always feel worrying if you notice changes to your body that are out of your control, and even more so when you’re pregnant and worrying for two! But two-thirds of women experience anal symptoms during their pregnancy and postpartum, so a bit of proctalgia fugax is usually nothing to lose sleep over.
If bottom pain is bothering you during your pregnancy or after, though, you may want to mention it to your doctor or midwife so they can help you with it. It’s always better to check with an expert to make sure everything you’re experiencing is normal, especially if you’re feeling anxious about it.
Is proctalgia fugax linked to endometriosis?
Shooty bottom pains when you go to the toilet to poop can sometimes be connected to endometriosis, in particular bowel endometriosis. If you’re experiencing this along with symptoms like intense period pain, extreme tiredness and frequent thrush infections, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor or gynecologist to find out more. They’ll explore what’s going on to find the best treatment for you.
Can you get treatment for proctalgia fugax?
Usually, those shooty bottom pains should stop within a few seconds, so you can go back to living fearlessly right away –no treatment necessary. But if they’re getting in the way of your routine, you can treat them in the same way you would other period symptoms. Just like when attempting to ease period pain and menstrual cramps, home remedies like taking over-the-counter painkillers, light exercise, or a nice soothing bath with Epsom salt (bubbles optional) can do wonders to help manage.
That being said, if you experience pain that is more severe or consistent, and it occurs even when you’re not on your period, there is a chance that you could be dealing with a different condition. Then it’s a good idea to make an appointment to get yourself checked by a medical professional. Although it can be awkward to explain there’s something wrong with your bottom, remember that helping you is their job and they’ve probably already dealt with similar symptoms before... they’ve likely seen it all!
Bottom cramps during your period are normal
Our bodies are amazing and sometimes they do strange things too –and that’s okay! Although sporadic instances of butthole cramps can feel like a horror movie jump scare (without the forewarning of an abandoned house and eerie music), keep in mind that they’re normal and temporary. Once those unpleasant moments pass, try having a laugh with friends, because chances are, they know exactly how you feel. It’s all just a part of living with periods – sometimes awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, but easier when we don’t take ourselves too seriously.