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Updated February 20, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.


Tenesmus is a term used to describe the experience of straining to empty an already empty bowel (rectal tenesmus) or bladder (bladder or vesical tenesmus). Tenesmus is an ongoing feeling of a need to empty, and sufferers can experience cramps, pain and feelings of urgency and/or incomplete evacuation. Efforts to continue emptying result in minimal passage of urine or stool.

Rectal tenesmus is a symptom associated with a variety of medical conditions, including:

Bladder tenesmus may accompany some bladder disorders, including urinary tract infections or interstitial cystitis.

Essential Reading from Dr. Bolen, your IBS Guide:

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