Levator ani syndrome is a condition that refers to intermittent pain caused by spasms of the levator ani muscle, which is a thin, broad muscle located on each side of the pelvis. Two forms of levator ani syndrome are proctalgia fugax, a pain in the rectum that is fleeting, rather than constant; and coccygodynia, which is pain in the area located at the coccyx. While levator ani syndrome is experienced in the posterior region of the body, it can cause intense pelvic pain, due to the fact that a number of other muscles associated with the pelvic floor can also be affected by the condition. For that reason, a specialist such as a urogynecologist will often consider levator ani syndrome to be a form of pelvic floor disorder.
Getting to the Bottom of It All
Despite the fact that the condition is not generally related to defecation, the rectal cramps associated with it may feel as though they have been caused by incomplete bowel movement and would be relieved simply through a completed bowel movement or even the passage of gas. Generally, the pain lasts no more than twenty minutes, though more severe cases may last for hours and be recurring.
Some of the most commonly experienced symptoms include:
- Pain when sitting
- Intense discomfort or relief following a bowel movement
- No visible abnormalities to the region, despite the degree of pain
- Pain that increases as a result of sexual activity
- Pain that worsens with stress
- Pain that is relieved while lying down
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What’s Behind the Pain?
Diagnosis will require a physical examination such as a female pelvic exam to determine, though its exact causes often go unidentified. Some cases are the result of lower back problems; and an examination will help rule out or identify other conditions such as cancer, hemorrhoids, rectal tears, or abscesses in the rectum.
Effective treatment methods include stiz bathing and the use of mild pain relievers, while some cases may resolve themselves after bowel movements or the passage of gas. More intense pain may require such measures as physical therapy and the use of pulsed electric stimulation, massage of the sphincter, or medications such as muscle relaxants.
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