5 Low-Impact Exercises to Ease Painkiller-Induced Constipation

  • couple-running-on-beach
    Moving Your Body and Bowels
    As if managing your pain wasn’t enough, now you have constipation to deal with; it’s almost expected when taking opioids (prescription pain medicines). But you don’t need to stop taking your medication and suffer needlessly. Along with dietary modifications and laxatives, increasing your activity level can have a big impact. While you may find certain exercises difficult with your pain, there are some gentle, low-impact options that can help you get the bowels moving. 

  • smiling-woman-in-swimming-pool
    Water Exercise
    Exercise increases circulation, which in turn stimulates the bowel muscles, helping to accelerate the movement of stool through the colon. But when you’re in pain, who feels like exercising? Something like water exercise may be the perfect solution for you. Not only will it get the body (and bowels) moving, the soothing effect of water (especially warm water in a heated pool) may help ease your pain. If you don’t have access to a pool (or a heated one), call around to some gyms that may offer water aerobics classes.

  • stairs
    Climbing Stairs
    The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that a low physical activity level is associated with a twofold-increased risk of constipation. So if you’re taking pain medication, and not getting enough exercise, you’re at even greater risk of getting backed up. Try to fit in exercise most days of the week. Even small changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and parking your car farther away from the store or office, can help.

  • Yoga
    Yoga and Stretching
    Stretching and yoga can make the bowels more pliable, helping your digestive system flow the way it should. They also can have a relaxing, or meditative, effect (another great way to manage pain). And regular exercise itself can help reduce chronic pain—so there’s double the reason to get into Downward Dog. 

  • Tai Chi
    Tai Chi
    Tai Chi, a gentle, mind-body practice that originated in China as a martial art, is often described as “meditation in motion.” In addition to helping you stay active and maintain strength, flexibility and balance, Tai Chi offers many health benefits, and research suggests it may help with many age-related conditions. It can be easily adapted for anyone—even those confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery who may be dealing with acute or chronic pain.

  • walking
    Walking—in the great outdoors, in a mall or on a treadmill—is always a great option to keep your digestive system on track. So pick your favorite spot and walk for at least 20 minutes, five times a week. The Nurses’ Health Study found that physical activity 2 to 6 times per week was associated with a 35% lower risk of constipation. 

5 Low-Impact Exercises to Ease Painkiller-Induced Constipation

About The Author

Susan Fishman is a veteran freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in consumer and patient education. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, and on numerous other national health, wellness and parenting sites. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation counseling at Georgia State University.

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  2. Definition and Facts for Constipation. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/constipation/Pages/definition-facts.aspx

  3. Treatment of Constipation in Older Adults. American Family Physician. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1201/p2277.html

  4. Constipation. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_constipation

  5. Management of opioid-induced constipation. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11309211

  6. Self-care for Opioid Induced Constipation. Arthritis-Health. http://www.arthritis-health.com/treatment/medications/self-care-opioid-induced-constipation

  7. The Health Benefits of Tai Chi. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

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Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 14
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