What to Do When It Hurts to Poop

06 Aug, 2020

Woman experiencing a painful poop.

If you’re sitting on the toilet bent forward in agonizing pain, hand pushing on the wall while the other hand vigorously scrolls through this article looking for why it hurts to poop, you likely have nothing to worry about but you came to the right place. 

Even out of the top causes of painful bowel movements such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, Irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis (more on these later), these combined only affect about one percent of Americans each year. 

If the average American poops once a day, that means that in 2019 there were more than 119 billion bowel movements (2019 US population of 328 million x 365). But if one percent of those were painful, that’s still more than 1 billion painful poops. 

So let’s dig into what could be the cause of your painful bowel movements. 

Causes of Painful Bowel Movements

There’s a lot to unload here (sorry) but first a disclaimer: If you are experiencing a painful bowel movement with blood or while pregnant, you should absolutely consult a doctor. 

If you're reading this article, it’s not likely you are suffering from a chronic disease like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s, or else you would likely already know all about it. Below are some of the most common causes of painful bowel movements, in order of commonality. 

1. Constipation

If you want to get technical, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. If you want to get general, constipation means you can’t pinch a loaf and struggle to even pinch a crouton. 

Constipation occurs when your stool moves too slowly through your intestines or remains stagnant in your rectum. Typically caused by a less-than fibrous diet or dehydration, constipation can be a sign of something more serious, like colon cancer. 

Most people have experienced constipation in some form and it is estimated that 16 percent of Americans have symptoms of constipation annually. Symptoms include lumpy or hard stools, feeling blocked, straining to have a bowel movement, or having to use your hands to remove stool from your rectum.

Constipation is self-diagnosable and treatable

2. Hemorrhoids

Usually caused by straining during bowel movements, sitting on the toilet for too long, obesity, or pregnancy, hemorrhoids are inflamed, swollen veins that can make defecating painful and/or bloody. 

They can be internal, between your rectum and anus, or external along the outer anus. Hemorrhoids are very common with more than 3 million cases per year in the US. They are self-diagnosable and treatable (by a medical professional). 

3. Anal Fissures

Also known as anal ulcers, Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus. Usually caused by trying to pass large or hard stools, anal sex, or another stretching of the anal canal, these open wounds can lead to very painful poops. 

Anal fissures are fairly common with about 200,000 cases in the US anal-ually (damn autocorrect, annually*). Undisturbed, anal fissures will usually heal themselves within four to six weeks but can also be treated with ointment. You can also use stool softeners and a more fibrous diet to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. 

4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is the abnormal contraction of the colon and although it impacts more than 200,000 Americans per year (that includes uncle Bob) is not well understood what its cause is. 

Symptoms include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. Some people have successfully treated Irritable bowel syndrome with changes in diet, exercise, and stress management, but in other cases, medication or other forms of treatment may be required. 

5. Endometriosis

Abnormal tissue growth outside of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, or the intestines is known as Endometriosis and usually only impacts women, seriously

Normally, endometrial tissue grows inside the uterus and is routinely removed during menstruation. Tissue growth on the outside of the uterus, however, is trapped and cannot be removed, which causes irritation and pain. 

Endometriosis is common, impacting more than 200,000 women in the US every year and is treatable by a medical professional. You may be experiencing pain in the lower abdomen, pain in the lower back or rectum, vaginal pain, discomfort during sex, and of course, pain while defecating.

6. Ulcerative Colitis

Colitis ulcerosa, ulcerative colitis, or UC for those who can’t pronounce either (ie. everyone), is inflammation in the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum that can lead to ulcers or open sores. It is a rare condition, with fewer than 200,000 cases in the US every year. 

Unfortunately, UC does not yet have a known cure, and while it can be treatable, it is a chronic disease that will last for life. Symptoms of UC are rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, and other discomforts while defecating.

7. Colon cancer

In rare circumstances, pain while pooping could be a symptom of something much more serious, like cancer of the colon, rectum, or anus. 

Symptoms of colon cancer, or colorectal cancer, could be abdominal pain, unusual weight loss, bloody stool, constipation, narrow stools, and more. If you have even the slightest inclination that something isn’t right when you poop, contact your doctor. 

Painful Bowel Movements FAQ

The questions outlined below are some common queries when people research their painful bowel movements (answers provided below are our best guess, which isn’t very good, please consult a doctor if experiencing prolonged pain while pooping or otherwise).

Q. "My poop is too big to come out and hurts?"

A. Constipation is one of the more common causes of a painful bowel movement and can feel too big or too painful to push out. Consider using stool softeners, eating fiber, and drinking more liquids.

Q. "Why does it hurt to poop on my period?"

A. Constipation is common during menstruation likely because of the sudden change in hormones estrogen and progesterone. It could also be a sign of endometriosis, or something much more serious. If pain is intense and persists, consult a physician.

Q. "Why am I having painful bowel movements with blood?"

A. Hemorrhoids, Anal fissures, and ulcerative colitis could all produce painful bowel movements with blood. If other symptoms accompany the painful and bloody bowel movements, contact a doctor. Otherwise, the issue could be treated or go away naturally. 

Q. "Why am I having painful poop while pregnant?”

A. Hemorrhoids are very common during pregnancy and the likely cause of painful poops while pregnant. 

Final Thoughts (Disclaimers*)

We are not doctors and nor do we play them on the internet. We simply provide tools of the trade to help you and your butthole stay clean and comforted when nature calls, no matter how irate or painful that conversation may be.

If you’re experiencing pain while pooping, try to relax and don’t strain too hard because it could result in hemorrhoids or worsen your existing condition. Usually, digestive health can be improved with diet, exercise, and a general shift in lifestyle. Before making any changes or decisions, always consult your doctor. That’s it, get off your squat and call your doc.

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