Why Does It Hurt When I Poop?

Ever gone to do a ‘number 2’ and you feel pain while at it or after? It makes you wonder why on earth pooping should be this painful.

The truth is that you’re not alone, painful poop is more common than you think, just that many people just don’t talk about it. If it routinely hurts when you poop, you might admit that just the thought of visiting the toilet to poop could be quite scary.

So, what causes painful poop and what can be done about it? In this article, we would be looking at three popular causes of anal pain when pooping and what to do to combat it. We would also be discussing associated symptoms and when to visit a doctor.

3 Reasons Why It Hurts When You Poop

1. Constipation

At one point or another in life, we have all felt constipated. You might have had difficulty while trying to passing stool or you might have passed hard small stools.

Sometimes you may feel bloated, gassy and have abdominal pain. Constipation is quite common and it can affect people of all ages.


So, What is constipation?

Constipation is said to occur when a person has hard poop that is difficult to pass out. To simply state it objectively: if you poop less than 3 times a week, you are constipated.

Because we are all different, everyone passes stool differently. However, the normal range is from three times a day to three times a week.

Constipation may not be very easy to identify, especially if you have had it on for a very long time, it starts to feel ‘normal’. Identifying it correctly is very important because it is a common reason why people have tears in their anus causing pain, sometimes leading to mucus or blood in poop.

How do you know it’s constipation?

Apart from pooping less than three times a week, constipation has other symptoms. Here are some:

  1. Straining to poop: If you have to regularly strain before you are able to pass feces, you are very likely constipated.
  2. Lower tummy pain or discomfort: Sometimes, constipation can present with vague pain in the abdomen.
  3. Small hard stools: If stools are broken into small pellets or pieces, it could be a sign that you are constipated. This could also be associated with a feeling that you haven’t completely emptied your bowel after pooping.
  4. Swollen/enlarged tummy: People with constipation may have an enlarged tummy from their inability to pass poop. The enlargement may also be related to flatulence (the buildup of gas in their abdomen). They are also likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable.

Now that we have discussed the signs of constipation, let’s go on to debunk 5 popular lies that you might have heard about constipation:

  1. People who are physically active are less likely to have constipation when compared to those who aren’t. Bedridden and elderly people are usually constipated for this reason as well.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, laxatives should be the last management option when you feel constipated. Laxative abuse can lead to diarrhea and the passage of green stools. Diet modifications(especially high fiber diet) and increased activity can help prevent and treat constipation.
  3. It is important to note that other medical problems can cause constipation. If your constipation persists for over a week with diet and exercise changes, you should visit your doctor.
  4. It is not uncommon to see an increase in constipation as a person hits 60, 70 years. This can be attributed to changes in the digestive system, reduced activity, routine medication, dehydration, and some other medical conditions. Older people are more likely to have constipation however, it can also be seen in people of all ages.
  5. You may be having constipation which is caused by your emotions, stress, anxiety or even depression. There are several ways by which your body physically manifests your thoughts and emotion. One of these is the feelings of anxiety you may experience just before an interview or a presentation.
  6. While it is true that caffeine can stimulate the contraction of muscles in your digestive system, we know that caffeine is dehydrating. It is therefore not recommended for constipation. If you must drink coffee, use decaf.

What to do to prevent and relieve constipation

You may be wondering what you can do to prevent and relieve constipation? Here are some tips:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids especially water.
  2. Eat fresh and dried fruits which contain fiber.
  3. Consume vegetables as they also have a high fiber content.
  4. Get active; exercise and move around.
  5. Use the restroom when you have the urge to and you can; don’t postpone defecation unnecessarily.
  6. Check your routine medications with your doctor for side effects. Constipation could be a side effect of certain medications.
  7. If you’re stressed, relax and spend time with family and friends.

If constipation doesn’t stop or keeps recurring, visit a doctor as there may be a more serious underlying cause.


Now, let us move on to hemorrhoids.

2. Hemorrhoids

Another possible reason why it hurts when you poop is hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are also known as piles. They occur very commonly, 3 in every 4 adults would have experienced it at some point in time.

So, what are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower part of the anus and rectum. When the walls of these vessels are stretched or swollen, they become irritated.

Depending on where they develop, we can say they are either internal or external. The ones that develop outside the anus are external hemorrhoids while the ones that develop within the anus or rectum are referred to as internal hemorrhoids.

Read Also: Worms in Human Poop: What It Means

Are you at risk for hemorrhoids?

Some people have a higher chance of having hemorrhoids compared to others. The following may increase your chances of getting piles:

  1. Consistent heavy lifting.
  2. Pregnancy.
  3. Obesity.
  4. Genetics (if your parents have/had it).
  5. Constipation.
  6. Chronic diarrhea.
  7. Straining.
  8. Anal Intercourse.

What are the symptoms?

Many times, hemorrhoids exist without any symptoms. However, symptoms include:

  1. Itching
  2. Discomfort
  3. Bleeding while defecating.
  4. Painful pooping
  5. Swelling around the anus.

Here are some things you should know about hemorrhoids:

  1. They are very common. Almost three out of four adults (about 75%) will have hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. Sometimes they are present but without symptoms.
  2. Women are more likely to get it when pregnant. Apart from the other symptoms associated with pregnancy, a pregnant woman is more likely to have hemorrhoids. This is due to hormonal changes as well as the increase in intra-abdominal pressure.
  3. They are not caused by eating sugary things. As long as you have balanced meals with adequate fiber, you are unlikely to have hemorrhoids due to food intake. Contrary to popular belief, sugary foods don’t cause or predispose you to hemorrhoids.
  4. They cause bleeding from the anus. Have you ever seen blood on the tissue when you wipe after defecating? This is one of the signs of hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding.
  5. Hemorrhoids can be treated with some home remedies. However, sometimes, medicines and surgery may be needed.
  6. It has a genetic origin. Hemorrhoids can be passed on genetically from parents to children. If any of your parents have hemorrhoids, you are at an increased risk for it.

What can you do for relief of symptoms at home?

The following will help:

  1. Increase your dietary fiber intake
  2. Increase your fluid intake
  3. Try not to strain when defecating.
  4. Exercise consistently; be active.
  5. Go defecate when you feel the urge.
  6. Have a sit bath.
  7. Topical relief creams which are OTCs can help relieve pain.
  8. Ice packs and cold compresses can help with the swelling.
  9. Oral analgesics can also help with pain.

If you have been managing hemorrhoids at home and you don’t seem relieved, visit your doctor for an assessment as it might have been complicated and may require surgical intervention.

3. Anal Fissures

An anal fissure (also called fissure-in-ano) is a small tear in the lining of the anus. Anal fissures are common in people of all ages, and it is often seen in infants and young children.

What causes anal fissures?

They can be caused by the following:

  • Straining during childbirth
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Long bouts of constipation or diarrhea.
  • Trauma due to the insertion of a rectal thermometer, enema tip, endoscope or ultrasound probe.
  • Other medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), infection and cancer.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms include:

  • sharp pain in the anal area during defecation
  • anal bleeding
  • A small lump or skin tag on the skin near the anal fissure (more common when chronic)
  • burning or itching in the anal area

How can it be treated?

Most times, the tear heals on its own within four to six weeks (i.e without any treatment). It is considered as chronic or long-term in cases where the fissure persists beyond eight weeks. Treatment of fissures varies and can involve surgery.

Some home remedies can help hasten the healing process and relieve uncomfortable symptoms. These include:

  • over-the-counter stool softeners
  • drinking more fluids to help prevent hard stools and aid in healing.
  • taking fiber supplements and eating more fibrous foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables
  • taking warm baths called sitz baths to relax the anal muscles, relieve irritation, and increase blood flow to the anorectal area.
  • applying a nitroglycerin ointment to the anus to promote blood flow to the area or hydrocortisone cream, such as Cortizone 10, to help with inflammation
  • applying topical pain relievers, such as lidocaine, to the anus to ease discomfort

The next time you notice pain while defecating, think of these conditions. If symptoms persist or worsen, visit your healthcare provider for an assessment.

Over To You

We’ve finally come to the end of this article explaining possible reasons why it hurts when you poop. Constipation, Hemorrhoids and anal tears are very common reasons why defecation may be painful.

If you are currently experiencing painful poops, you should seek help from a doctor near you to identify why and get it treated as soon as possible.

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Omiete Charles-Davies, MBBS

Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in medicine and surgery. He is a licensed medical doctor and has worked in different private and government-owned hospitals as a general medical practitioner. For fun, he loves to travel and experience new cultures.