To GO or Not To Go
By Barby Ingle, President
Power of Pain Foundation
Imagine going from living an active life, where dance was a central part of your life, to living in pain that limits your every move. It happened to me. As head of Washington State University’s cheer and dance programs, physical fitness was a central and wonderful part of my life. That changed in 2002 when I was diagnosed with a painful autoimmune disease that ended my ability to coach. Pain like that isn’t just physically limiting – it is morally debilitating.
It took me years to get a proper diagnosis. I was trying many treatment options such as physical therapy, massage, chiropractics, and medications. Once I got my providers to listen to my pain symptoms and challenges of living with chronic pain I was able to obtain access to life giving medications and although the opioids helped with pain levels there are other symptoms that I was then dealing with on a daily basis. Sometimes you have to negotiate with yourself, I did.
After taking opioids, I realized that I was getting so constipated that it was painful. This was a different pain, and abdominal pain that was sharp, cutting feelings. I had days where I had to decide, do I take my opioid or do I suffer with the more severe chronic pain so I can relieve myself of the abdominal pain and bloating from opioid induced constipation (OIC) I was experiencing. And when I had another complication like a kidney stone, oh, it got even worse. The constipation showed up in x-rays it was so severe. Why am I sharing this with you? This is a topic not spoken about much publically, but it is real and it exists. We need to start a conversation!
Although nothing stopped the OIC besides stopping the opioids. I had to make some choices on lifestyle and personal habits to help manage my pain and accompanying symptoms. Imagine if there was a way to help elevate OIC and take the pain medication that helps. Sounds great right? As I struggled with OIC for over 2 years I realized that I could do a few things that would help. Even when not feeling like eating, I would be sure to eat breakfast. I would include a hot drink and high-fiber food like wheat bran cereals because my provider told me that they promote bowel movements. I also found that I did better at expelling my waste when I didn’t use extreme force or strain when trying to go. I tried OTC laxatives, and a powder medication stirred into my drinks, heating pad on my back and stomach, stretching. It was a constant struggle to go or not to go.
It is time to fulfill the promise of new treatment options that offer relief and relief. As a leader in the pain community and someone who advocates for thousands of pain patients each year, I strongly believe that we can combat the issue of OIC. How? We can talk about it which raises awareness and takes some of the stigma out of it. It also helps our providers and caregivers better understand how to help us. It is hard enough to talk to our significant other let alone our provider, but we need to start talking so we can start going. We must find a balance between opioid medication and being able to live fuller lives without side effects like OIC from these life giving medications.