Constipation After Back Surgery

One possible after-effect associated with spinal surgery that’s not always discussed with you prior is constipation. While not affecting everybody who has surgery, constipation can be caused by the initial lack of mobility following spine surgery, opioid pain medications, or agents used in the general anesthesia administered during surgery. The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, a leader in minimally invasive spinal surgery in Beverly Hills, suggests the following steps to minimize constipation following spine surgery.

Make an Effort to Get Up and Around

Some initial bed rest is understandable immediately following spine surgery, especially with more complex procedures like multiple fusions or spinal realignment. However, getting up and walking as soon as possible following surgery can help improve circulation within your digestive system.

Minimize the Use of Narcotic Medications

While effective for pain relief, narcotic medications can slow down bowel movements, resulting in constipation. Consider requesting non-narcotic pain relievers like regular-strength Tylenol instead of narcotic pain medications like Oxycontin or Vicodin.

Use Mild Laxatives

If you’ve previously experienced issues with constipation following surgery, taking a mild laxative following your spine surgery can prevent or minimize discomfort. Stool softeners can also be effective if you prefer something gentler.

Use Natural Laxatives

Should you not want to rely on laxatives or stool softeners, have a cup of coffee (caffeine is a natural stimulant), drink apple cider (not apple juice), or sip some prune juice. If your Beverly Hills spine surgeon advises against caffeinated drinks following your surgery, a glass of warm water with lemon can be equally effective.

Change Your Diet

Another natural approach to dealing with post-surgery constipation is making some dietary changes. A high-fiber diet can stimulate enzymes within the digestive tract to help maintain digestive procedures. Having smaller meals throughout the day, instead of one or two big meals, can also help your digestive system working more efficiently.

Suppositories and stimulant laxatives (Dulcolax, Milk of Magnesia) may also achieve the desired results following your spine surgery. If you still have any lingering concerns before your surgery, initiate a discussion with your doctor prior to surgery to clearly determine how you would prefer to counter possible post-surgery constipation.

If you have questions about spine surgery or spinal fusion alternatives in Beverly Hills, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation with one of our experienced board-certified physicians.