One of the least discussed yet surprisingly common issues related to back pain is constipation, which may either aggravate existing back pain or contribute to newly experienced discomfort. The resulting back pain is usually due to the added strain placed on muscles that support your lower (lumbar) spine from difficult bowel movements. Lower back muscle spasms may also interfere with the autonomic nerves that help control intestinal actions. Beverly Hills spine surgeons have 7 tips for preventing back pain-related constipation.
1. Stay Hydrated
Constipation is often made worse when there aren’t enough fluids in your body to ease movements. In addition to water, prune juice and apple cider can also minimize dehydration and encourage healthy bowel movements. Follow the general recommendation of 8 glasses of water a day.
2. Get More Exercise
Regular movement of muscles, especially those around your lower extremities, can facilitate bowel motions. If you can’t do longer workout sessions, consider lighter forms of exercise such as casual walking or gentle stretches. Some yoga moves place gentle pressure on the ascending and descending colon to encourage gas release and prevent constipation.
3. Adjust Your Diet
A diet that consists of processed foods, fried foods, and sugary snacks may be contributing to your constipation. Adjust your eating habits and incorporate whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet to encourage healthy and productive digestion. Fiber-rich foods such as broccoli and legumes (lentils, peas, and beans) can keep things moving in your digestive tract.
4. Try Another Opioid Medication
If you’ve been put on opioid medications to manage chronic pain, pay attention to how your bowel movements are affected. If you begin experiencing recurring issues with constipation, ask your doctor to switch you to another opioid medication. According to a study of people taking opioids for osteoarthritis, patients taking tapentadol reported fewer issues with constipation than individuals taking more commonly prescribed opioids like oxycodone.
5. Consider Alternatives to Opioid Medications
Taking opioid medications on a regular basis may lead to constipation. Consider asking your doctor to ease you off opioids and transition you to non-opioid medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen are common alternatives to opioid drugs that may help manage your pain and prevent the unpleasant side effect of constipation.
Note: Some NSAIDs may also have gastrointestinal side-effects.
6. Don’t ‘Hold It In’
Avoid the temptation to fight the urge to go to the bathroom because you’re busy with other tasks. Listen to your body and make an effort to go when you feel the urge to prevent buildup and other issues that may lead to persistent constipation.
7. Use Laxatives or Stool Softeners
If you’ve recently had minimally invasive back surgery, some of the medications you’re taking to manage your post-operative pain may be contributing to your constipation. Check with your doctor for recommendations on appropriate choices for laxatives and stool softeners.
If your back pain is causing you great discomfort, you may want to consider fusion surgery or some back fusion alternatives. Beverly Hills patients can count on the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute to diagnose the source of their pain and find a solution for living a pain-free life. Give our office a call today at 310-828-7757.