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Effective Pain Management

By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
(Page 5 of 5)


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 guided.


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.

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