Skip to Content

Why does it hurt to poop with a herniated disc?

Quick Answer

Herniated discs can cause pain with bowel movements due to the proximity of the disc to spinal nerves that control muscles involved in defecation. A herniated disc puts pressure on these nerves, leading to pain, numbness or weakness in the muscles needed for having a bowel movement. Treatment focuses on relieving the herniation with rest, medications or surgery to alleviate associated bathroom troubles.

What Is Causing Pain When Pooping with a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner gelatinous core of an intervertebral disc ruptures through the tougher exterior. This can put pressure on the spinal nerves as they exit the spinal column, causing radiating pain, numbness, weakness or other symptoms.

Some of the nerves affected by a herniated disc in the lower back or neck help control the muscles involved in having a bowel movement. Specifically, the pudendal nerve originates in the lower spinal cord and sacral region to provide motor and sensory innervation to the external anal sphincter and pelvic floor muscles. Damage to this nerve from a herniated disc can make it painful to contract these muscles when straining or pushing during defecation.

In addition, the vagus nerve provides parasympathetic innervation to the colon and intestines to stimulate peristalsis and digestion. Impingement of this important cranial nerve by a cervical herniated disc could slow motility, leading to constipation and painful bowel movements.

Herniated Discs that Can Cause Pain When Pooping

  • Lumbar herniated discs (L3-L4, L4-L5, L5-S1) affecting the pudendal nerve
  • Cervical herniated discs (C3-C4, C5-C6, C6-C7) affecting the vagus nerve

So in summary, herniated discs can cause bathroom troubles including painful bowel movements due to irritation of the spinal nerves involved in the complex neuromuscular control of defecation.

Symptoms of Painful Pooping with a Herniated Disc

Some common symptoms that may occur when trying to have a bowel movement with a herniated disc include:

  • Sharp, shooting pain in the back, buttocks or rectal/perineal region
  • Pain spasms or cramping of anal sphincter muscles
  • Difficulty relaxing pelvic floor muscles to pass stool
  • Straining or inability to fully evacuate bowels
  • Bloated abdominal discomfort before and after pooping
  • Numbness around the anus, rectum or perineum
  • Leaking stool due to weakened external anal sphincter

The specific symptoms experienced can help identify which spinal nerves are affected and guide treatment. Alert your doctor if you develop new bathroom troubles after sustaining a back injury or developing symptoms of a herniated disc.

Why Do Herniated Discs Cause Bathroom Problems?

Herniated discs can negatively impact defecation due to:

  • Irritation of the pudendal nerve: This nerve controls the external anal sphincter. Damage causes loss of voluntary control, resulting in painful spasming, straining and soiling.
  • Weakened pelvic floor: Pelvic floor weakness from a herniated lumbar disc prevents proper relaxation of muscles to pass stool.
  • Loss of rectal sensation: Numbness in the perineal area from pudendal nerve damage leads to difficulty sensing rectal fullness and controlling bowel movements.
  • Constipation: Impaired vagus nerve function slows gut motility and peristalsis after a herniated cervical disc.

Identifying how a specific herniated disc is interfering with the coordinated neuromuscular functions needed for proper defecation guides targeted treatment.

How to Treat Pain When Pooping with a Herniated Disc

Treating bathroom troubles and pain with bowel movements caused by a herniated disc involves:

1. Rest and Activity Modification

Giving the herniated disc time to heal by avoiding strenuous activity that worsens symptoms is important. Switching to a sitz bath for defecation avoids painful straining. lumbar bracing can also help reduce irritating pressures.

2. Medications

Oral steroids like prednisone help reduce nerve inflammation and irritation from a herniated disc. Muscle relaxants like cyclobenzaprine relax the pelvic floor to ease bathroom straining. Laxatives treat associated constipation gently.

3. Physical Therapy

Pelvic floor therapy can retrain proper muscle relaxation and coordination when pooping. Modalities like heat, ultrasound and electrical stimulation also reduce spasms.

4. Spinal Injections

Epidural steroid injections deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly to the herniated disc. This relieves impingement on adjacent spinal nerves.

5. Surgery

Discectomies remove the portion of a ruptured disc compressing nerves. More severe herniations may require spinal fusion procedures. This stabilizes the area to resolve nerve irritation.

Promptly seeking care for new bathroom troubles can identify an underlying herniated disc. Treating the source resolves painful defecation and other associated symptoms.

Preventing Recurrence of Painful Pooping

After recovering from a herniated disc, adopting certain lifestyle measures can help prevent recurrence of bathroom problems:

  • Maintain proper lifting techniques to avoid reinjury.
  • Control weight to reduce spinal disc pressures.
  • Improve core strength and posture through exercise.
  • Make dietary changes to avoid constipation from low fiber.
  • Quit smoking to promote disc health and nerve healing.
  • Manage chronic coughing to reduce intradiscal pressures.
  • Optimize ergonomics with cushions and lumbar supports.

Learning your specific triggers for disc herniation can help guide individualized prevention strategies as well.

When to See a Doctor

You should consult a doctor promptly if experiencing:

  • Severe or progressive back pain
  • Radiating leg pain, numbness or weakness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Unexplained changes with urination or defecation

These can indicate a significant herniated disc applying pressure to the spinal nerves or cord and may require urgent evaluation and treatment.

Diagnosing a Herniated Disc Causing Bathroom Problems

Doctors use a combination of approaches to diagnose a herniated disc behind bathroom troubles, including:

  • Medical history – Asking about back problems, injury, pain triggers and bowel changes.
  • Physical exam – Checking for numbness, reflexes, muscle weakness and range of motion.
  • Imaging – X-rays, CT or MRI evaluate the disc anatomy and degree of herniation.
  • Electrodiagnostics – Nerve conduction studies check for pudendal nerve dysfunction.

Identifying the level and severity of disc herniation guides appropriate treatment to resolve associated bathroom difficulties.


Bathroom troubles like painful bowel movements, constipation or incontinence can stem from a herniated lumbar or cervical disc irritating the delicate nerves that control defecation. Prompt evaluation and treatment focused on relieving nerve impingement alleviates these bothersome symptoms and improves quality of life. Being aware of triggers, maintaining spine health and seeking care for new bathroom problems allows for early intervention and better recovery.