Stool Straining At
What Your Symptom Is Telling You
While genius has been described as 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, here's one case where a little less effort may make for a true masterpiece—and a lot fewer health problems.
That's because straining at stools—trying too hard to relieve yourself—can be downright dangerous. "You could actually get a tear right at the opening of the anal canal (called an anal fissure) when you really strain, causing pain and bright red rectal bleeding," says Samuel Labow, M.D., president of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and a private practitioner in Great Neck, New York. "Without question, straining with a bowel movement can also make hemorrhoids swell and bleed, increasing your discomfort."
Years of excessive straining may actually push your rectum inside out, weakening your anal muscles and, ultimately, causing you to lose control of your bowel movements, says Richard Billingham, M.D., a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Once it has fallen out, your rectum is subject to injury even from just wiping after a bowel movement," says Dr. Billingham.
Straining can also cause a hernia, which may make it even more difficult to move your bowels, he says.
So much for why you shouldn't strain. The appropriate question at this point is, why do you strain? And the answer, in a word, is constipation.
Your best bet to prevent straining is preventing yourself from becoming constipated in the first place, says Dr. Labow.
"Don't accept the fact that sitting on the toilet for 45 minutes to an hour is the way the world goes to the bathroom," says Dr. Labow. "It's not."
See also Constipation