What causes painful bowel movements and how to relieve the pain?

Symptom Database

Painful bowel movements, also known as painful defecation or painful bowel evacuation, can be a distressing and uncomfortable experience. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe cramping, making it difficult to pass stool. Understanding the causes of painful bowel movements and knowing how to relieve the pain can help improve your overall digestive health and quality of life.

Causes of Painful Bowel Movements

There are several factors that can contribute to painful bowel movements. Some common causes include:

1. Constipation

One of the most common causes of painful bowel movements is constipation. When stool becomes hard and dry, it can be difficult to pass, leading to straining and discomfort. Lack of fiber in the diet, dehydration, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to constipation.

2. Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anus that can cause pain and discomfort during bowel movements. They can be internal or external and are often caused by straining during bowel movements, chronic constipation, or pregnancy.

3. Anal Fissures

Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus that can cause sharp pain and bleeding during bowel movements. They are often caused by passing large or hard stools, chronic constipation, or diarrhea.

4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can cause painful bowel movements. These conditions involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that can cause painful bowel movements. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. Stress, certain foods, and hormonal changes can trigger IBS symptoms.

Relieving the Pain

While painful bowel movements can be uncomfortable, there are several strategies you can try to relieve the pain and improve your bowel movements:

1. Increase Fiber Intake

Adding more fiber to your diet can help soften the stool and make it easier to pass. Include foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your meals. If necessary, you can also consider taking a fiber supplement.

2. Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help prevent dehydration and keep your stool soft. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water daily.

3. Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity can help stimulate bowel movements and prevent constipation. Engage in activities such as walking, jogging, or yoga to promote healthy digestion.

4. Practice Good Bathroom Habits

When using the bathroom, it’s important to avoid straining and take your time. Sit on the toilet for a few minutes, even if you don’t feel the urge to go, as this can help relax the muscles and make it easier to pass stool.

5. Use Over-the-Counter Remedies

There are several over-the-counter remedies available to relieve constipation and ease painful bowel movements. These include stool softeners, laxatives, and hemorrhoid creams. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using these products, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.

6. Manage Stress

Stress can exacerbate digestive symptoms, including painful bowel movements. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in hobbies, or seeking support from friends and family.

7. Seek Medical Advice

If your painful bowel movements persist or worsen despite trying home remedies, it’s important to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can evaluate your symptoms, perform necessary tests, and provide appropriate treatment options.


Painful bowel movements can be caused by various factors, including constipation, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. By understanding the underlying causes and implementing strategies to relieve the pain, you can improve your digestive health and overall well-being. Remember to incorporate fiber-rich foods, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, practice good bathroom habits, consider over-the-counter remedies if necessary, manage stress, and seek medical advice if symptoms persist. With the right approach, you can find relief from painful bowel movements and enjoy a healthier digestive system.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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