Back pain sometimes leads to constipation and bowel difficulties that can make it challenging to go to the bathroom. Spine-related discomfort may also make it physically difficult to get to the bathroom when the need arises. If these issues are severe in nature and include an inability to control bowel or bladder functions, seek immediate medical attention. Whether back pain is resulting in minor inconveniences or you’re on treatment while recovering from spine surgery, Santa Monica patients can take these steps to minimize bathroom issues.
1. Ask Your Doctor About Adjusting Your Pain Meds
Around 40 million people in the United States experience constipation. Oftentimes, part of the reason for this is due to medications being taken for other reasons, such as back pain management. For instance, opioids can be effective pain relievers. However, one of the common side effects of these drugs is constipation. While working internally, opioids slow the amount of time it takes stool to work its way through the gastrointestinal system. If you’re experiencing issues, ask your doctor if adjustments can be made. Some muscle relaxants and antidepressants prescribed for back pain relief may also cause constipation.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Dehydration can exacerbate issues with constipation. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, make a point of drinking water throughout the day. Not only can this ease your bathroom issues, but it might also decrease your back pain since water increases the flow of essential nutrients to the spine tissues and discs. Apple, prune, and pear juices have a slow-metabolizing sugar alcohol called sorbitol that may also ease constipation.
3. Use Appropriate Assistive Devices
If your issues with the bathroom are mostly mobility-related, consider using strategically placed assistive devices. Some patients with spine pain find it helpful to have handrails near the toilet. Support rails can be fixed to the wall or placed around the toilet for access on both sides. Seat risers can also reduce issues with mobility. There are several other toilet and bathroom aids available online that may also be useful.
4. Adjust Your Diet
Sugary snacks and fried foods aren’t healthy in general, but such foods can also exacerbate bathroom issues. Instead, opt for foods and ingredients that benefit the digestive system. Fiber-rich foods such as berries and grains naturally ease constipation. Additionally, the following foods can be beneficial for constipation management and digestion:
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
- Spinach and other green, leafy veggies
5. Use Stool Softeners or Laxatives
Ask your doctor to recommend laxatives or stool softeners appropriate for your needs. You may benefit from gentler formulas or milder laxatives that are not likely to interfere with other medications you take to manage your pain. If you don’t want to depend on prescription or over-the-counter options, herbs like cascara sagrada (buckthorn), rhubarb, and senna have natural laxative effects. Exercise can also speed up digestion and increase water absorption. Check with your doctor or physical therapist for exercise suggestions for this purpose.
Even the most effective back treatments can result in side effects. Get in touch with The Spine Institute today if you’re experiencing severe back pain and are seeking a solution. We specialize in a variety of spinal procedures, from XLIF surgery to transforaminal interbody fusion. Santa Monica patients can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert back surgeons to diagnose the source of their pain and help them find relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.