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Physiological + Functional Colon + Rectal Disorders

Living with chronic constipation, bowel incontinence and diverticulitis can affect your quality of life. But there are ways to manage the discomfort.

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Regain control of your life

Even though you might not want to talk about anal or rectal issues, it's important to share your concerns with your doctor. With proper treatment, the majority of colon and rectum conditions can be managed effectively. Don't let these conditions go untreated. Seek medical attention and discover the relief you deserve.

We know that certain conditions can have a significant impact on your body's functioning, such as constipation, fecal incontinence, rectal prolapse, functional anorectal pain, and diverticular disease. That's why we're here to help you overcome these challenges and get back to your normal routine without the inconvenience of constantly searching for a restroom. Our approach is to understand your specific needs and work with you to develop a personalized plan that will give you the relief you need to resume your daily activities with confidence.

Dr. Jason Hall, Surgeon-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Surgery at Tufts Medical Center, talking to patient before surgery.
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Taking care of your anal and rectal health is crucial. If you have any concerns, it's important to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor. Many common conditions can affect your colon and rectum, but with proper medical attention, they can be effectively treated. Therefore, if you notice anything unusual, it's best to seek medical care as soon as possible and prioritize your overall health. Some of the conditions that we treat include:

Rectal prolapse

A rectal prolapse mainly affects adults over 50 and can result from constipation, childbirth or problems with the pelvis or gastrointestinal tract. It occurs when muscles around the anus weaken. Although medical treatment can help decrease stress in the area, surgery is the only way to solve the problem fully.

We use two surgical techniques to repair a rectal prolapse — abdominal and perineal — and will recommend the procedure and approach that will work best for you.


Constipation, or infrequent bowel movements, is a common digestive problem that can be quickly addressed by following a bowel management program. About 95% of people who follow a program and make simple changes to their diet will improve.

Functional anorectal pain

Pain in the anus or rectum can be a sign of anorectal disease, prostatitis, cystitis or cancer. Occasionally, the pain may be recurrent and persistent, but no clear cause can be found. This is called “functional” pain. There are two types of functional pain, proctalgia fugax and levator ani syndrome, and we’ll help you through both.

Diverticular disease (diverticulitis)

Diverticular disease (diverticulitis) is a digestive condition that develops when small pockets in the intestines become inflamed. It’s unclear what causes the condition, but it usually goes away in about a week. It can be easily treated with antibiotics, medicine and recommended changes to your diet. If these changes don’t ease your symptoms or if you have complications, your doctor may recommend surgery.



Testing is essential for gaining valuable insights into the causes of your condition. But it's not just about finding the root cause. It's also about selecting the best therapy that works for you. We use a combination of imaging and physical tests, along with your medical history, to accurately pinpoint your symptoms. We use a variety of tests to look for even the slightest changes in your colon and rectum, ensuring that we provide you with the best possible care, including:



While treatments for physiological and functional colon and rectal disorders vary depending on your situation, changing your eating habits or making other slight adjustments may help with your symptoms.

Bowel management program

Bowel management programs help you develop regular bowel habits and are frequently used to treat constipation and fecal incontinence. Depending on your condition, your program may consist of the following:

  • Eating bland foods that are binding and help slow bowel movements, such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (commonly known as the B.R.A.T. diet).
  • Avoiding foods that increase bowel function like caffeine, alcohol, licorice, chocolate, greasy, high-fat and fried foods, milk and ice cream, citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables and spicy foods.
  • Increasing the amount of water (4-6 glasses) and other non-caffeinated beverages you drink daily.
  • Taking daily supplements that promote regularity, like Metamucil, Konsyl, Citrucel or Benefiber.
  • Keeping a journal of meals, supplements, bowel movements and incontinence.

Surgical options exist to treat fecal or bowel incontinence when dietary and lifestyle changes or other treatments don’t improve symptoms. Procedures may include:

  • Artificial bowel sphincter
  • Colostomy
  • Ileostomy
  • Sacral or spinal nerve stimulation
  • Sphincteroplasty

Your doctor may recommend medication to help you move your bowels or stop diarrhea. These medications include enemas and suppositories along with Imodium or Lomotil.


Biofeedback is an exercise that improves the function of the weakened muscles and nerves of the anus. Biofeedback is done with a physical therapist and generally requires several sessions and regular exercise at home.

Stimulated defecation

This is a technique used to have a bowel movement. We will teach you how to do this.   

Lifestyle changes

It may be helpful to change your diet, try a new exercise plan and stop smoking. We’ll connect you with a registered dietitian to help make food changes and, if needed, a physical therapist to help with moving your body.  

Nurse comforting patient before a colon and rectal surgery.
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