As pain-related problems go, anal fissures are shrouded in mystery but in reality, are not so hard to understand. Basically, a fissure is a variety of cut or tear, one that occurs in the think skin of the anal canal as it is stretched beyond its normal capacity. Stretched too far, the skin will create a miniature chasm that exposes thousands of nerve endings, which in turn send you sharp pain signals.

In the anus, the most common cause of fissures is the passing of a large, hard stool. If you have fissures, you know these little sores that can make your life miserable. They burn, they hurt, and sometimes they bleed. And because they occur in a place that’s not very polite to talk about, it can be hard to get good advice or treating them and easing pain. The following advice should save you the embarrassment of having to ask. But if these symptoms persist beyond a couple of weeks, you should see a doctor who actually looks at the area in question.

For fast relief
Soothe with a sitz. Draw yourself a soothing bath, filling it with 3 to 4 inches high with water. Add 1/4 cups of Epsom salts and sit with your knees raised – this position allows the fissure to better come in contact with water. Sitz yourself for 15 to 20 minutes two or three times per day to ease your pain. The combination of the warm water and Epsom salts will help soothe the pain and hasten healing. But be sure to rinse off with plain water before towel drying.

For lasting relief
Wipe with witch hazel. If you are suffering from an acute case of anal fissures, it is suggested to use either cotton balls or toilet paper moistened with the herb witch hazel to clean your anal area after bowel movements. Sprinkle witch hazel on to the toilet paper yourself, or buy prepackaged medicated pads with witch hazel already in them. Both are available at most drugstores and will help you to avoid the pain and irritation that wiping with dry toilet paper can cause.

Reach for some ice. Apply ice or a cold pack covered in a thin towel to the area 5 minutes at a time to several times per day to help ease your pain. To apply the ice however, it is easiest for you that you lie on your side. Ice applications should be limited to 5 minutes or so; otherwise, you might impair the circulation to the affected area, which would impede the healing process.

Be gentle. Overzealous wiping can impede the healing process of your fissures. So wipe gently and don’t skimp when buying toilet paper. Treat yourself to a nice, soft cushionary brand. Just make sure that it’s white and unscented. Colored or scented toilet paper contains dyes or perfumes that will only irritate fissures and cause itching.

Steer clear of spicy foods. While no food will cause anal fissures, some foods may irritate the anal canal as they pass through your bowels. “Things that normally cause your heartburn, such as hot and spicy foods, will cause you pain as they pass through your bowels, particularly if you’re suffering from fissures.

Pain Preventers
Full up on fiber. The anal opening isn’t meant to accommodate large, hard stools. Rock-hard stools can tug and tear at the anal canal, which can result in anal fissures. The solution is to make sure that your diet is high in fiber, which will produce softer bowel movements.

The Daily Value for fiber is 26grams. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grain will certainly help in that regard. Such diet changes will help stools to pass more easily without causing further irritation to existing fissures. A high-fiber diet will also prevent future fissures from forming.

Drink up. Fluids also help you keep your bowel movements soft, which can help minimize fissure pain and prevent future fissures. Drink a glass of prune juice a day, and on top of that take in the recommended six to eight glasses of water.