If you’re a person who gets periods, the full spectrum of period side-effects are familiar: mood changes, discomfort, funky poops and, of course, really bad cramps. Just because we know ’em all and experience ’em all doesn’t mean we get why and how they happen.
Luckily, some of the pros on TikTok (in addition to giving us other advice on subjects like pooping, our workouts and our pasta) are here to explain why period cramps can be felt not just in your abdomen but in your butt too. In a stitch to a relatable video showcasing the horrors of a sudden period butt cramp, Dr. Karan Rajan unpacks the common experience — and why there’s no reason to freak out.
@dr.karanr##stitch with @jalykasmith b00ty cramps on your “.” ##womenshealth ##period ##menstruation ##schoolwithdrkaran ##learnontiktok♬ original sound – Dr Karan Raj
And the TL;DR: This situation — previously referred to as proctalgia fugax, but now just called anal cramping — is caused by the same hormones that make your poop and digestion funky during your period.
“During a period, hormones called prostaglandins are released, which causes the muscles of the uterus to contract and the lining of the uterine to shed, and causes pain and cramps,” Dr. Rajan said in his video. “The prostaglandins also cause a contraction of the rectum, the pelvic floor muscles, and muscles around the anal canal. These intense contractions can cause a muscle spasm and anal cramps.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Dr. Rajan also gave his pro-tips for what to do when you’re struck with an anal cramp — because there ware ways to ease the discomfort or prevent it in the first place.
“Proctalgia fugax can sometimes be eased with warm baths, which can help reduce muscle spasms, or avoiding prolonged sitting, which can [tighten] pelvic floor muscles and muscles around the anus. Generally, stretching and movement [should] help, but thankfully it’s usually a transient issue.”
He adds that this isn’t just an issue for people with periods — non-menstruating people can also encounter these uncomfortable sensations: “Proctalgia fugax can affect men too for [similar reasons], so avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is advisable. However, for men, he noted that it’s “important to [rule out] other causes of anal pain, like hemorrhoids, fissures, and ulcers.”
Before you go, check out our favorite vagina-friendly wipes that won’t mess with your pH: