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Surgery is a stressful experience for the body and can come with unexpected side effects during the recovery process. A common experience for many surgical patients is constipation after surgery.

This article will discuss what causes constipation after surgery, the symptoms, and the treatment options that can help you feel better.

Constipation After Surgery: Why Does It Happen?

A common combination of factors causes constipation after surgery for many people:

  • Immobility. After surgery, many people need to avoid exercise and rest to recover. However, this lack of movement and sedentary behavior reduces digestive activity, contributing to constipation.
  • Medication and anesthesia. Surgery involves using a variety of medications, such as diuretics, muscle relaxants, anesthesia, and pain relievers. These can cause constipation in some people, with opioids being a particular contributor.
  • Dietary restrictions. People may need to avoid certain foods before or after surgery. These changes can sometimes cause constipation, particularly if one is eating less or drinking less water.

Constipation commonly occurs as a decrease in bowel movements, and patients can find it hard to pass a bowel movement after surgery. A few common symptoms are:

  • straining to pass a bowel movement
  • hard, dry stool that may be painful to pass
  • a sensation of pressure in the rectum even after a bowel movement
  • pain in the stomach
  • bloating

Treating Constipation After Surgery

Constipation can be uncomfortable at the least and result in painful and sometimes serious complications. Anal fissures, where the skin in the anus tears due to hard or large stool, are common. Hemorrhoids can also occur due to the additional strain from bearing down. Sometimes, surgical stitches may tear open due to the strain of passing a bowel movement, requiring medical attention.

Treating constipation is a matter of keeping the bowels mobile and relaxed. As soon as you have permission from your doctor, you should regularly engage in mild physical activity. This stimulates the intestines and helps food move through them for proper digestion. The more sedentary you are, the more likely it is that you experience constipation.

Doctors can also prescribe stool softeners or laxatives to help with constipation. Some of these work by helping the stool absorb more water from the intestines, making them easier to pass due to the additional lubrication. Others may add bulk to the stool in the form of insoluble fiber, such as psyllium husk (Metamucil), or stimulate the bowels directly (Dulcolax.)

Conclusion: Always Ask A Doctor First

Sometimes, the wrong kind of constipation medication can actually make the problem worse and lead to more problems. Remember that it’s important not to take over-the-counter medication after surgery without consulting a doctor. They’ll be able to tell you which medication is best for you and prescribe some if necessary.

At the Gastroenterology Diagnostic Center, we have significant experience in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with our board-certified gastroenterologists, please give us a call at (281) 357-1977. We will be happy to help you enhance your quality of life and show you why we’re the best GI in Tomball.

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