April 23, 2010

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Remedies for Tenesmus

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Do you constantly feel the urge to empty your bowels? Is evacuation of fecal waste strenuous and painful? Do you find yourself exerting pressure during bowel movements? If yes, then you may be suffering from tenesmus.

What is Tenesmus?

Tenesmus is a painful and uncomfortable condition in which the victim feels a continuous need to empty his/her bowels. This false compulsion may also be accompanied with cramps, distress, severe pain in the anal area, and a sensation of insistence and unfinished evacuation. Some other terms associated to the disorder are painful stools or difficulty passing stools.

People afflicted with tenesmus exert and strain a lot while emptying their bowels, but can pass little or no stools, which results in anguish and constant anxiety. Constipation usually worsens tenesmus as the sufferer is unable to easily discard the waste that accumulates in the colon.


Tenesmus can be a result of many diseases and medical conditions. The symptoms can include:

  • Urgency to empty the bowels
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Fever/Chills
  • Blood in stool
  • Cramps


There are innumerable causes of tenesmus. However, it is important to be aware of each one of them for proper diagnosis and treatment. The most common causes are listed below.

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Inflammation in the bowels
  • Constipation
  • Colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Endometriosis of the rectum
  • Rectal trauma or injury
  • Anorexia
  • Acute diarrhoea
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Prostrate tumour
  • Rectal carcinoma
  • Cervical cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Dysentry

Travel-Related Tenesmus

Frequent travelling and change of places can bring about dieatary and other related changes in some people. The reason may be an underlying cause of improper and strained bowel movements, which may include tenesmus. It is important to note the changes and consult your doctor for the same.


It is important to consult the doctor for a thorough examination and treatment as soon as the symptoms surface. In the beginning of the treatment, the doctor may want to know the detailed information about the symptoms and other related changes.

The information sought by the doctor may include:

  • Timing, pattern and severity of the disease
  • Conditions associated with symptoms (i.e., abdominal cramps and pains, urgency to empty the bowls, vomiting, diarrhea, strain, etc.)
  • Diet changes or experiments
  • Past medical and genetic history

The doctor may then advise a complete physical examination to find out the root cause of the condition. A rectal and abdominal examination is carried out in nearly all the cases.

The diagnostic tests carried out may include:

  • Stool culture
  • CBC (complete blood count)
  • CT scan of the abdominal area
  • Colonoscopy
  • Abdominal X-rays
  • Blood sampling
  • Endoscopy and biopsy

The results of the tests will decide the further course of the rehabilitation therapy. The treatment may include:

  • Medication
  • Proctocolectomy (removal of the rectum and  part/all of colon, in severe cases)

Home Remedies

Home remedies are also an essential part of tenesmus treatment. The most effective part of the home treatment is a nutritious and healthy diet, as well as some exercise and lifestyle changes. Here are some tips related to diet and lifestyle changes for tenesmus.

  • People with tenesmus should avoid falling prey to the treats of fat-laden foods. Foods to avoid include: junk/fast food, processed foods, aerated drinks, sugar treats, fried/oily stuff, alcohol, and refined flour
  • Constipation aggravates tenesmus. The accumulation of waste inside the colon and the inability of the system to purge it increase the pain and can result in serious complications. Make sure to include plenty of fiber-rich foods like whole grains and cereal in your diet
  • Seasonal fruits and green leafy vegetables are also rich in fiber and provide adequate bulk, which consequently helps the digestive system get rid of all the waste easily and effectively, thus preventing constipation
  • Liquids are also an effective home remedy for relief in tenesmus. Fluids cleanse the colon and get rid of all the toxins, which aids in digestion and in the smooth passage of stools. Coconut water and fruit juices benefit the digestive system and provide essential nutrients
  • Consumption of Bihop’s weed and sugar candy with water twice or thrice a day is considered to be effective in tenesmus treatment. However, medical advice should be taken on this
  • Regular exercise rejuvenates the body, boosts the immune system, and stimulates the digestive processes; all these factors together help prevent bowel disorders in general and help the body cope with disease and illness

The proper diagnosis of the cause of the disease and a suitable treatment can help cure tenesmus and prevent recurrences of the disorder or complications related to it. It is thus best to consult a doctor at the earliest, as soon as you notice any symptoms, for the effective and long lasting treatment.


  1. Camilleri M. Disorders of gastrointestinal motility. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 138.
  2. Stenson WF. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 144.
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov