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Constipation From Narcotic Pain Killers' After Surgery Is Cause; Having More Pain and More Surgery? Get a Good Laxative.

Updated on May 19, 2019
David Warren profile image

David Warren has had multiple cervical fusions and reconstructive neck surgeries.

Perhaps because it is such an embarrassing subject I have found very little personal information online regarding constipation. I had several major neck surgeries that resulted in drastic life-changing events. My high octane activity level at work and play had been stripped away. As I had at least one more major surgery currently in the planning stages I knew I would not be returning to my previous lifestyle anytime soon. As it turned out I would never return to many of those activities. Although I had succeeded in remaining positive throughout that ordeal, that time proved to be quite challenging.

When you take large amounts of narcotic pain relieving drugs such as morphine one of many serious side effects is constipation. Morphine effectively can very effectively shut your bowels and digestive tract down. I’ve done a tremendous amount of research in this area and tried practically every remedy I’d come across but the bottom line is when you have had multiple surgeries and must remain on narcotic painkillers’ your bowels can present serious secondary complications. I took prescription stool softeners, medication to keep water stored in my intestinal tract, and Lactulose on a daily basis. Our medicine cabinets’ also contained practically every method of constipation relief I had read about online.

Earlier last year I had a bowel movement that was particularly painful. Did I really just write that?

As my daughter was graduating from college on a Friday I ignored the pain, attended her graduation, hosted a gathering at Olive Garden, and then orchestrated a family photo shoot at a local park. Nothing short of a marble slab would have prevented me from the above activities.

Afterwards, barely able to walk, my wife and I went to an emergency room where I was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia and torn ligaments from constipation. Although more surgery was certainly the last thing I would have opted for it was the only available choice. After hobbling on crutches for several weeks I underwent surgery to repair the torn ligaments and inguinal hernia caused from constipation.

After a myriad of issues relating to multiple neck surgeries developing secondary new problems was almost too much. By that point I actually began thinking perhaps enough was enough and seriously considered ending my life. Thankfully I had, at that time anyway, a very supportive family and would never have subjected them to the grief and confusion that goes along with such a selfish act.

The thought of literally dying in the bathroom has been a fear I’d had since my first surgery. What an unfair and degrading end that would be. My “words of wisdom” are to urge anyone reading this that constipation is not an ailment to take lightly or ignore. Prior to these events I had no idea that constipation could lead to torn ligaments’, inguinal hernias’, and even fatalities if left untreated.

I had mixed feelings about publishing this article. However if it helps even one person, for simply relating to the issue, it will have been worth the embarrassment of writing it. I can easily admit I am not infallible but writing about bowel issues and then pressing a publish button is another thing. Perhaps this is the reason every online article about constipation is more like a pamphlet you would find in a clinic or doctor’s office.

Although this matter is no joke I am taking great pleasure in knowing that I can laugh at myself as I edit this hub. This tells me that I have indeed overcome yet another obstacle on this disastrous road. Luckily I’m not superstitious, or I’d have to believe if reincarnation were reality I must have really screwed up last time around.

Multiple serious cervical surgeries combined with the secondary problems eventually did practically lead to my demise. I eventually gave up any hope of recovery which in turn led to my divorce, the loss of my job, and the suggestion of multiple neurosurgeons that conferred my condition regarding my neck would only degrade further over time. Thankfully they were wrong. My life has undergone tremendous changes but today I am on no pain medications whatsoever as I sit here at my keyboard in Puerto Vallarta.

There are many options regarding the care of your bowels. The important thing is that you take some action as constipation can become a matter of life and death when left untreated.


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well David, I am happy to hear you are well enough to write about this topic. I think it's great that you are. I would imagine this is something quite a few people need to read. I'm glad you are still with us. Take care, my friend.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have read many good snippets here, it's nice to listen to people who are pleasant to one another. However I find it strange that anyone can be embarrassed by discussing issues such as constipation, I suppose it's an age thing; I am eighty two and recovering from a Laminectomy which I had a week ago with the resulting constipation, which I have just; within the last hour had relief from. I am so relieved that my wife had to talk me out of sending emails to everyone I know saying "STOP PRESS, I HAVE JUST HAD A BOWEL MOVEMENT".

      Back to the embarrassment bit and the age thing. Many years ago when I was eleven years of age I had a climbing accident and tore open my Scrotum (I have just blushed). It was in the UK and it happened around 7 pm and because of WW 2 most young doctors were doing military service, it was not until 11 pm before a doctor came to treat me, he was at least 100 years old and his Pony and Trap were even older, he proceeded to stitch me up 16 stitches without an anesthetic, I can feel it today. The reason for this anecdote is that back then everyday the District Nurse came to change my dressing I would hide my face in the pillow however in this last week I have had young nurses cleaning and pulling catheters out of my penis ( I nearly said Thingy) without a trace of embarrassment.

      Maybe because of my age and the fact that I have neuropathy and no fear of having an embarrassing erection (once again I blushed) even though; throughout the world there would be millions more erections daily than bowel movements, easy or hard.

    • David Warren profile imageAUTHOR

      David Warren 

      8 years ago from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta

      Hello! Thank you, will give it a try. Happy to hear from you, best wishes to you as well!

    • Katharella profile image


      8 years ago from Lost in America

      Hi David, I recently went to visit my aunt in GA, then friends in MI. Well to make my incredible responses shorter lol my friend gave me this drink and told me to drink at least a cup full (or more if needed). She also bought me plain old Ibuprofen. I spoke with the pharmacist and although they are not supposed to give advice, he said it is a much better inflammation reducer than any prescription ones. I did take 8 which is equivalent to one prescription pill. While that did help, the drink was amazing for helping this problem! It's called Kefir. Made by Lifeway. It's yogurt type drink but is actually good. It's usually in the healthy food section. It's been helping me as we'll as eating smaller meals. Hope you try it and benefit from it! (While you are thin someone who isn't might be glad to know that these two things helped me get around better and I've lost 45lbs by being able to be more mobile!) Best wishes!

    • Katharella profile image


      10 years ago from Lost in America

      WHAT? You can't stop at that! :D When you're up to it, details! It will lead to less meds right? Oh I hope so! Did they use those soft disc things? Remember I saw them talking about them at physical therapy? That guy I knew that got them did great after that! Unfortunately he got addicted, so had to go to rehab, but doctors understand it's just another part of healing. Considering we hate them lol, we won't have that particular problem, but I told my Dr. I was sick of abusing them.. his eyes got wide, I said, "name calling isn't nice to something that will help me, and drive me nuts" He got it then laughed! "Oooooh I see" LOL! Glad you're back, if you can't be at the computer at least keep paper/pen with ya so you can jot down idea's for your characters!! Now, go get better!:)

    • David Warren profile imageAUTHOR

      David Warren 

      10 years ago from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta

      LOL Hi Katharella! :) First day back on the computer from surgery Tuesday. Sore but went well. Hope you are doing well and having a great day!

    • Katharella profile image


      10 years ago from Lost in America

      Ah, it was a crapshoot (pun intended):D on which hub to send ya best wishes. Hope they kept ya feeling ok for a day or two and you get back to posting! Just letting you know some of your fans are wishin' ya well and waiting on you to get back to developing your characters in your story!! Hope things went well! -Kathy

    • Katharella profile image


      10 years ago from Lost in America

      Yes, Subway was invented by Doctors! I only peeled the bread out to minus the carb intake!(that sound like a car thing lol)! I don't know about cats, but avacado is a natural laxative on dogs, so none for her lol! (Dogs go figure)lol

      You'll be in my thoughts on Tuesday for sure!! You know David, while I'm sorry you've suffered so much pain, maybe there was a reason for it, to reunite with your girls! Hey as a daughter, I know we can get upset at our dads, but even when you're not well you're invincible darn it, we expect you to stay that way. Even while I had to help my dad at the end of his life, he'd always loved me even when I was.. not so good! So, just reconnecting is closer to seeing their faces so that's also medicine for your mind!

      I'll be thinking of you and sending you all the best, come back as soon as you can! Your friends will wait patently! :)


    • David Warren profile imageAUTHOR

      David Warren 

      10 years ago from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta

      Hi Katharella! Thank you, any excuse to buy avacodos' works for me, I love them. Didn't know Subway had it's roots in doctors conversing, interesting indeed, thank you. I share "human" food with our cats', hasn't hurt them that I'm aware of any,lol. Haven't been here much this week, having surgery Tuesday the 21st and also have three daughters back east that other than support I've had very little contact from. Long story but anyway all is well that ends well. They are older now, can make their own decisions and reconnected with me. Heartbreaking story but a happy ending anyway. Hope you are well!

    • Katharella profile image


      10 years ago from Lost in America

      Hi David, promise no hub within a hub :) lol! I came to um drop off lol new hints/tips and see others have came forward too! :)

      @Sharyn: Wow, 103, Your Gran was a strong woman! Actually your tip was going to be part of mine! I've all but turned vegetarian, and finding that I'm spending a lot more time chewing my food as well. WITH THAT SIP OF DRINK! I was my dad's last caregiver as well. Promised I would never put him in a home! And I didn't! :) (No regrets help us cope)

      Last week I decided I was going to rough it with the new Avacado turkey sub from Subway (Subway was invented by doctors) and I had them give me the avacado and used my own fat free mayo. So when I got the small size, I took it apart and peeled the inside of the bread until just the hull of it held the sandwich together, spread on the avacado put the cheese & lettuce & tomato on, put the tiny bit of mayo on the other side, so my doggie got the meat :) (yes I'm that person who let's my dog share with mommy)LOL. My sandwich might have been sorta flat, and I still had my sip with it, but IT WAS GOOD!

      I had left the plate with the leftover avacado in it in the sink (chronic pain = dishes, next step)*eek* well, when I went back in, the avacado had went THROUGH the plastic! Which means it's GOT to be good for... well, keeping things moving! I read a hub on Avacado and how great they are for our digestive tract as well as coconut oil, so two more things on the list of being able to eat! I want to make macaroons, looking that up made me learn how much the oils are great for us.

      Hope you're doing well! -Kat

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      10 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Wow David, love the title of your hub, kind of like a mini-hub, ha. Seriously, I give you a lot of credit for your openness with this problem. Of course, I appreciated the humor too.

      I have never had this issue BUT it sure brought back memories. My Grandmother had a constipation problem years ago, I think she was 90 years old at the time. Things got so bad that she ended up in the hospital with surgery. She was so sick and in SO much pain. It was truly heartbreaking to see her go through the horrible pain.

      Gram lived until almost 103 years old and I was her main caregiver during her last couple years. After her "constipation experience," she was told by her doctor to always drink something every time she eats something. Well, for those last 13 years or so of her life, she ALWAYS had to have something to drink when she would eat something. She was very good at taking a bite of food and then taking a sip of liquid, food, liquid, and so on. When I was taking care of her, I always knew to have a drink ready for her. If the drink wasn't there when I placed a plate of food in front of her, I got a "look." A "you know that I have to always drink when I eat" look.

      She was so darn cute, I really miss her.

      Thank you for this open, honest, informative and humorous hub David. Best wishes, take care of yourself!


    • David Warren profile imageAUTHOR

      David Warren 

      10 years ago from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta

      Hi Dexter. Thank you kindly for both your input and vote of confidence. More likely than not, that was the most personal hub I'll ever write regarding health,lol.

      Katharella, Yes, check your email when you get a chance. I just went to your profile page and sent you an email from there.

    • Katharella profile image


      10 years ago from Lost in America

      David, I haven't checked my mail yet, I've not had a good weekend, and been busy snarling at the old pain med bottle. I couldn't keep anything but popsicle down, and am trying to avoid food at all cost, which, means I'm not touchin' the TGIF bottle even though I got the choco ice cream with it. I gathered the stuff for my hub but can't even hold my laptop to begin putting it together. I clicked to play a bit of gaming, but that's cos I don't have to hold it to type and there's no sitting at a desk or anything for me. I have to be able to be in a position I don't move when it's like this. I guess I'll be late with my tribute hub but, that's like I'm sure there's tons of real soldiers who would understand. Intentions are good. I am going to send photos to your wife with short explanations and so she'll be able to know what to look for exactly and thanks cos even though it's a woman, it's still going to be an embarrassing email. Take care! -Kat

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      10 years ago from United States

      Hi David. I want to thank you for having the courage to share your story. It must have been tough and I appreciate your resolve to do so. I am sorry that you suffer through pain and having an additional complication certainly doesn't help. I admire how you fight through it and how you have not lost your sense of humor.

      It might be an embarrassing topic but constipation is a serious issue. Bringing this matter to the attention of others will, I am sure help many, many other sufferers.

      Thanks so much!

    • Katharella profile image


      10 years ago from Lost in America

      Ah never worry about getting back I just didn't know if I missed it! I've gone to the extent of drinking that "one or two days' past expiration date on milk just because I know it'll cause opposite effect, not that I recommend it LOL and ew! Now I know that soy choco-milk they say is horrible but some kids like it, so hey! I've even ate whole hunks of ex lax WITH hershey bar! LOL! I was going to melt them together but haven't made it that far yet but I'm sure I will!

      Oh, I'm not a drinker, but my friends had some of that TGIF Friday's Chocolate Mudslide, and I was like "GREAT NAME! Worked for me" LOL! I'm actually thinking of trying that again because I didn't feel "drunk" or anything, and it didn't taste bad like alcohol.

      I tell you my dentist is the one who wanted me to drink water since soda is so bad for the teeth, but my doctor says "ANYTHING LIQUID ANYTHING" I figure what's more important, so I'm only drinking enough soda to keep the caffeine headache away lol So the dentist will be happy, but oh don't even think about the induced coma please! I tell you, you WILL feel pain, and not be able to say anything! My mom died in a coma, and when we had hope she'd come out of it, she had a feeding tube in, and the two people who were to wash her in the mornings PULLED IT OUT and when I came walking in the room her body was just jumping all over the bed, my sister was standing there holding her hand, I FREAKED, "where is the nurse, where is her meds" She said "I told them" Uh, OH, So after I RAN down to the nurse station to get them, she was on the phone with the dr "for permission" I said you're giving it to her NOW or I'll knock you down and take it" LOL she hung up and started to walk to mom's room and I literally grabbed her arm and RAN and made her get it that in her iv right away.. then when mom's body relaxed, we stepped out in the hall. She said "I'll have you thrown out of this hospital if you ever pull anything like that again" and I said "I'll go right now straight to the chief of staff and tell them YOUR BREATH STINKS LIKE ALCOHOL SO I THINK YOU'LL SHUT UP AND KEEP MY MOTHER MEDICATED AND GET THAT TUBE FIXED BEFORE I CALL THE NEWS!!!" Needless to say not only did we not get a bill, but I had to stay there and (it was before my injury) so I slept on two hard chairs and kept watch on mom and even showed there and made EVERYTHING ON TIME. Everyone was mad at me for staying there, and I said I don't care!!! If I had of been there, them two girls wouldn't of left my mother like that. And I did not see them again.. lucky for them. So please do not do that because I know she felt that pain I know it!

      Oh, yeah ya know I didn't think about the heat, but yes, right.. when I first hurt my shoulders I put the heating pad on across them, and fell asleep in the recliner, WORST MISTAKE EVER!!! OH!! Wow, yeah! I must have been thinking just the cushioning of the water! When my dad came here his coumadin caused a brain bleed and with dementia he was afraid to be without me at the hospital, and the nurses, bless them, brought me ice packs for both my shoulders while my meds kicked in and they took care of him until I could tolerate the pain and keep him from trying to get up. My sneaky dad had a pocket knife and I caught him trying to cut the restraints cos he wanted to go home. LOL. I was close with my dad so he was ok when I was there, so they let me shower in his room. Well both of them are passed on now, but I'd do it again. I'm just glad I didn't have this while mom was in her coma.. but after she did die I told on the drunk nurse anyway.

      Well, I'll be double embarrassed when your wife writes me cos I'll know you know LOL, but if it helps then it does! Never of us want to be an Elvis ditto! My stomach dr did tell me that I broke a blood vessel in my eye so I don't care what they say about Elvis I think he broken a blood vessel in his head. I really do. Not the thrown I wanna go on..well, die on! LOL Ok, that was funny.. well I been up all night this hub is why! So in a few hours my friend is coming over and I'm sending him to the ABC store for the mudslide, I figure I will just take a toast to the soldiers for this weekend. I have my facebook "these colors don't run" flag up, even though I'm mad at obama for singing that patriot act at the last second grrr... glad I didn't vote for him! I voted for the "been there done that guy" :) I have a tribute hub in the works and it'll take me all weekend I hope you get a chance to look at it. I did video and photographs and I really hope it doesn't offend.. and sad I couldn't have my dad's in it, but well, you'll see why I'll fit him in again. -Take care! Glad you got to see your girl graduate :) Sorry for the book! Maybe it'll help someone else too embarrassed to say we need a sludge mudslide eeeek!!! :/

    • David Warren profile imageAUTHOR

      David Warren 

      10 years ago from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta

      Thank you Katharella.

      Sorry I took so long to reply, its been a tough week physically and I haven't been writing anything.

      Don't have a hot tub which is probably a good thing as I used to love them but heat is the worst thing I can do for my neck and upper back. I would be looking at it with disgust now if we had installed one.

      I transferred my medical care to VA (Veterans Administration) because even with insurance the co-pays of three major surgeries have been tremendous and now with me at home.... Anyway VA doesn't deal with the manufactured opiate (Opana) that I was taking as it is very expensive so I've been adjusting to having changed to 60mg of morphine per day with hydrocodone between doses. Nevertheless the staff at VA are GREAT and the price is right.

      "Girl dies on toilet" was funny! Not in a bad way but as one who fully understands. Laughter is great medicine as long as it isn't within a few days after a surgery, hurts like hell, then you you lose it and laugh harder. Remind me one day, I have an amusing story regarding laughter after surgery.

      Anyway it was a rough week that ended with me resigning to the new narcotics and an appointment with VA's surgical clinic. I saw several neurosurgeons since my last surgery as I was furious that these drugs are the only answer for the time being. I would rather be placed in a medically induced coma until I heal but obviously this is not a choice. Then the thought of more surgery almost sent me over the edge, granted hernia repair isn't major surgery but its still surgery.

      Peggy is asleep and works through the weekend but we will e-mail you. I can't thank you enough for the time you take and how open and honest you are. I use what I call my health hubs to get my pent up anger over the whole mess out without rehashing it with those around me. Its great therapy and miraculous when someone such as yourself responds.

      I feel for you. Loved the Nestle Quick comparison, not daily but when I do make chocolate milk my wife and daughter refer to it as Dave's chocolate sludge.

      I think you and I, anyone for that matter, can overcome anything as long as we have hope and a sense of humor :)

    • Katharella profile image


      10 years ago from Lost in America

      David.. ok.. I'm totally in tears.. I'm not even sure what to say. Not only is the problem embarrassing, I've literally cussed the bottle of medicine out! I have all those extra meds and drink more water, I think the ocean is drying up!

      I've called the pharmacy CRYING for help, and begged him to search for something non-narcotic to help, and he said, not for the amount of pain I am in will touch my pain.

      When I got to the part you said crutches, my tears ran faster. I have those shoulder impingments so there's no walking on crutches I could ever do if it were me.

      I commend and salute you, bow to you, and will crack (no pun) ;/ a smile with you just because I know.

      I just had said the other week, as I cried sitting on the toilet, I'm going to have an "Elvis Death" but I'm not popular "the King" like him so I won't make front page news! "Girl dies on toilet because her brain burst out her eyes"

      ha! Yeah that can be funny for a minute.. but it's true I've felt that way. Strange I just got to your link just as I was getting YET ANOTHER bottle of water for 2 of 3 OTHER pills and things to.. keep things moving.

      HOW DO PEOPLE GET ADDICTED HOW HOW HOW!!! :( I don't get it! I tried to go without, but people don't understand even perfectly comforted in a recliner in front of the tv, NO MOVEMENT you still have the pain.

      No moving around makes things worse, but so does moving! It's a NO WIN situation!

      I think I wrote you last about if you had a hot tub or any sort of thing to just be in to relax the muscles in your neck and back, but I don't recall ever seeing an answer, so I thought maybe I'd forgot to hit enter or, sometimes I'm just not sure, maybe you didn't feel up to answering and it got moved down the list. I also call pain pills "stupid pills" because they make me forget, like mid sentence!

      For one thing, it's like you said not only embarrassing, but also to talk to someone about it, and for me, I would never ever want your wife to think I was being invasive. I'm sure as you say in your last sentence that it's a life or death issue, and the jokes can be as they will, but how do people really share HOW TO LIVE and deal with this issue! It's horrible. They don't understand why you're in there so long.

      For anybody else who might be too embarrassed to comment or anything, the only thing else other than the things mentioned, are lack of foods, and I've been drinking those ensure drinks, but only one.. and enough to keep the pangs of hunger away, and watermelon because it's soothing and watery, and at the hospitals they have a drink for CT scans that I wish I could get my hands on! I was at the hospital for a pain in my side. The nurse was pouring TONS of sugar in two big glasses of it, she said "this will taste horrible but drink them anyway".. I guess for me they didn't because I drank them like the Nestles Quick bunny drinks chocolate milk, literally! But my side was hurting so bad they had to hold it for me, the doctor had to give yet MORE morphine in my iv to deal with getting up and down for the ct scan and to drink the stuff that they actually had to come and help me get out of the bathroom! But it was the first time I felt "cleansed" seriously.. I just giggled but only because that's what it took to get things moving that day. After that they did find I have cyst but was HIDDEN!! The pressure must have made them burst! It was horrible. I just don't know with everything they know, WHY WHY WHY can't they make a pain medication that isn't detrimental to our other health. I know of one other thing, supposedly new but if you (I would feel more comfortable if your wife wrote me) would email I could talk to her and maybe this new thing would help. Even if a little bit.


      About your picture.. hospital, they made me mad because I wasn't crying like a child would cry, and they said "what's your amount of pain" and I said it's not on that chart. They said then I didn't have pain, I was so upset I guess I got loud I said IT'S NOT ON THERE, BECAUSE IF I CRY IT HURTS MORE SO I CANNOT CRY. I was sitting still and tears were streaming.. what else is there to say, because I'm not gasping and loud it doesn't hurt?!?!

      I almost wrote a hub on it, I called it "Narcotic HELL" but deleted it for reasons you said.. and I just didn't know where to start or end.

      Sorry this happened to make things worse for you. :(


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