Most Los Angeles spine surgeons will tell patients that one of the unfortunate side effects of some chronic pain medications is opioid-induced constipation. OIC occurs when nerve sensations that facilitate movement in the gastrointestinal tract are affected by opioid medications. Such drugs also increase the absorption of water and electrolytes, which can also contribute to constipation.
Stimulant laxatives such as Ex-Lax and Dulcolax can increase the flow of water into the bowel to reduce constipation. Osmotic laxatives like Miralax can also increase fluid accumulation. Over-reliance on laxatives may cause abdominal pain from inflammation of the intestinal lining.
Different from laxatives, stool softeners work by changing the consistency of your stool. Such products are meant to make elimination easier and less painful. Drink plenty of water throughout the day when taking a stool softener to treat your OIC.
Add helping to reduce constipation to the many benefits of regular exercise. Get the approval from your doctor first before making any changes to your existing fitness habits to avoid worsening the pain that opioid meds are supposed to control.
Drinking more water can reduce hydration within your intestinal tract and help keep things moving throughout your body. Follow the standard recommendation of eight 8-ounce glasses per day unless your doctor says otherwise.
Berries, air-popped popcorn, broccoli, and dried fruit are some of the foods that may help ease constipation. While fiber is often recommended for constipation, it doesn’t always do the trick with opioid-induced constipation. Too much fiber may result in bowel obstruction.
Hydrating Agents and Lubricants
These products boost water content within your stool. A higher moisture content results in an oily consistency that makes it easier for things to move along.
Prescription OIC Medications
Meant to be taken once within a 24-hour period or every other day, Relistor (methylnaltrexone) is the only FDA-approved medication specifically for OIC. Delivered as an injection, it may be effective for patients who can’t tolerate laxatives.
Before starting any treatment for OIC, including the use of over-the-counter laxatives, check with your doctor. It may also be possible to make adjustments to your opioid medications or prescribe different meds altogether.
If non-surgical options for back pain are no longer providing adequate relief, it’s time to speak with a spine surgeon in Los Angeles who can discuss other options including minimally invasive spine surgery. To schedule an in-person consultation, reach out to The Spine Institute Center by calling (310) 828-7757 today.