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Effective Pain Management
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
WORKING WITH OPIATE SIDE EFFECTS
Constipation arising from opiate
medications is a frustrating consequence for caregiver
and loved one. A common misconception is that
fiber and exercise will address all types of
constipation. When opiates are given, the bowels
are slowed down; the result is constipation, which
occurs in many people who take opioid/opiates.
The buildup of waste in the intestines
creates discomfort in all people. In general,
suggestions to alleviate and control constipation
include increasing water intake to soften food passing
through the digestive tract, and exercise, which helps
muscles “massage” the internal organs. The
intestines made “sleepy” by opiods can be helped by
these two suggestions, but more help may be needed,
especially when pain hinders the ability to move.
Fiber is an excellent “homespun” cure to
deal with constipation, and as long as the individual
has a somewhat hearty appetite, salads and vegetables
can be given as snacks and meals. When appetites
are poor or finicky, fiber bought at the health food
store can be sprinkled on easy-to-consume foods (like
pudding or baby food). Fiber is helped by fluid
intake, and those who are having trouble keeping up with
their liquids may prefer “fun fluids”, such as snow
cones and popsicles.
Caregivers and loved ones may be
reluctant to continue pain medication when constipation
is the result. The key to working with this side
effect is to allow for the body’s changing ability to
pass waste as usual. Constipation may also be a
result of compressed nerves or other factors that are at
work in a health challenge. Continuing medications
is important, but advise the doctor about constipation
and the success of any home remedies. Combining
simple fixes like diet and exercise with
physician-prescribed solutions may be what is needed.
Laxatives and slow-release magnesium are
over the counter remedies that are helpful, but should
not be used without speaking to the doctor.
Overuse of laxatives can create or increase constipation
in the long run.
There are prescribed medications which
work to counteract the effects of various drugs.
“Antagonist” medications are given at the doctor’s
discretion. Discussion of possible medications to
counteract medication effects can be done when there are
problems noted, but as always, caregivers must give as
much information possible to the doctor so he can be
PAIN CAN HAVE POSITIVE EFFECTS
If an area is completely numb from
treatment, pain may be an indicator that the area is
“coming back to live”, however uncomfortably. When
pain is addressed within a reasonable time, corrective
measures can be taken to alleviate it. This
assists the body in healing, and helps loved one and
caregiver enjoy their time together as they move toward
the next step in recovery.