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9 Ways to Beat Painkiller-Induced Constipation

Constipation is a common side effect of opioid painkillers.

An effective pain killer can feel like a gift from heaven when you’re really hurting. They can reduce pain from surgery, injuries and illnesses, but the pain relief can come at a price, especially if you’re taking an opioid painkiller. Opioid analgesics are a step up from pain-relieving drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen. They’re made from a derivative of the opium plant, which was used for centuries to knock out pain. They work well, but they can also make things get a little—or a lot—backed up. One of the most common side effects is constipation. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to alleviate at least some of that discomfort.  

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Medically Reviewed By: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS | Last Review Date:

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Medical References

  1. Kumar L, et al. Opioid-Induced Constipation: Pathophysiology, Clinical Consequences, and Management. Gastroenterology Research and Practice. 2014; Article ID 141737, 6 pages http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/141737
  2. Over-the-counter laxatives for constipation: Use with caution. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/in-depth/laxatives/art-20045906
  3. Pain relief, opioids, and constipation. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/pain-relief-opioids-and-constipation
  4. Portenoy RK, et al. Subcutaneous Methylnaltrexone for the Treatment of Opioid-Induced Constipation in Patients with Advanced Illness: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Parallel Group, Dose-Ranging Study. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. May 2008; Volume 35, Issue 5, Pages 458–468. http://www.jpsmjournal.com/article/S0885-3924(08)00093-6/abstract
  5. Swegle JM and Logemann C. Management of Common Opioid-Induced Adverse Effects. American Family Physician. 2006 Oct 15;74(8):1347-1354. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/1015/p1347.html#
  6. Thomas J, et al. Methylnaltrexone for Opioid-Induced Constipation in Advanced Illness. New England Journal of Medicine. 2008;358:2332-43. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa0707377

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