Levator Spasm Syndrome

The symptoms that sufferers experience are of a dull ache in the rectum, "sitting on a ball" or "having a ball in the rectum." The pain is worse when involved in straining activities or when sitting. The pain improves when standing or lying down.

A period of severe stress may begin the symptoms. Others note the symptoms began after a long car trip. Some have the problem beginning after surgery on the colon or the female reproductive organs. Lumbar disk and back pain, including lumbar disk surgery, are reported by some. Often there is no single cause for the condition.

Women are affected somewhat more frequently than men are. A physician finding tenderness in the supporting muscle of the rectum called the levator ani muscle makes the diagnosis.
The condition is often chronic and recurring and in this manner resembles recurring back pain. The similarity is not surprising because anatomically the levator ani is the lowest back muscle. Successful treatment takes patience and persistence.

Initially, the patient is advised to take warm baths, as this will relax the muscles. Short term use of diazepam, a muscle relaxant and tranquilizer, can help, but can only be used intermittently, because the medication can be addicting. A physician can perform levator massage at three to four week intervals with some relief in symptoms being noted. Some centers in the metropolitan area perform a form of physical therapy to treat the problem, called electro-galvanic stimulation. For this, a probe is placed into the rectum and electrical currents stimulate the muscle, and them allow relaxation to occur, with a relief in symptoms for some.
Taking steps to reduce stressful situations often improves important. When life stresses are overwhelming, psychological counseling and medication are sometimes necessary.