Phantom Rectum. No, this isn’t a really great band name or a ghostly arsehole, but an actual thing that people without a butt sometimes have to deal with. Let me explain…
You know you hear about people who have had a limb amputated who have a feeling in said limb? It could be pain, itching or tingling. This could be due to damage to nerve endings or it could be activity within the brain as it struggles to deal with the fact that limb is no longer there. This phantom limb pain is very, very hard to treat.
So back to phantom rectum…
People with phantom rectum feel like they need to go to the toilet, even though they do not have a working rectum. This feeling can continue many years after surgery. Some people have found sitting on a toilet can help to relieve this feeling.
Some people also experience tingling, pressure, stinging, burning, pain, itching or aching. Despite the comedic name, it can actually be really miserable and affect self esteem, confidence and mental health in some people.
Sometimes phantom rectum syndrome is found in patients who still have a rectum, but don’t have it ‘connected’ as they have had ostomy surgery or other operations to divert stool away from it. They may experience phantom rectum because of a build up of mucus in the rectum. But it is also experienced by those who have had the rectum and anus removed completely, this could be because of scar tissue, nerve damage or a psychological effect.
I am only a few weeks out of surgery but I definitely get the old phantom rectum symptoms, I really do think mine is my brain telling my body to do something it can’t. For example, after a morning cup of coffee when you get ‘that’ urge, I still get that, but there is nothing down there! I can only poo through my stoma, I have no rectum or anus yet I get a real and true physical feeling that I need to pass stool through my butt. It is a very odd sensation though I am getting used to it. I do still have some pain there, but I think this is because I am still recovering and healing.
So what can you do?
If this is a problem for you, firstly, speak to your specialised nurse, GP or doctor to rule out any other issues. Self care involves sitting on the toilet, relaxation techniques, soothing skin with creams. Doctors may be able to prescribe medication or other therapies. Unfortunately, like Phantom Limb pain, it can be very difficult to treat.
For many people it is inconvenient and a bit annoying rather than life altering and I think I am lucky to be in that gang. Symptoms tend to resolve spontaneously in 50% of cases. Phantom rectum is relatively common but symptoms are usually mild and resolve in time. I refuse to be embarrassed by this though, and thought a blog post was in order to get people talking about their ghostly butt.
And for the record, I bagsy the name So Bad Ass and the Phantom Rectums for my band name!