Suppositories can be effective for treating occasional cases of constipation. Laxative suppositories typically contain a prescription or over-the-counter medication that stimulates the movement of the bowels, makes the stool softer, or lubricates the anus to make it easier for a person to push a firm stool out. Some of these medications work within about a half hour of use and many are fairly mild. Most doctors recommend against using suppositories for constipation on a long-term basis, however, as doing so could lead to dependency or cause other health problems.
To use suppositories for constipation, a person usually lies on his side with one knee up near his chest and the other leg kept straight or slightly bent. He then inserts the pointed or rounded end of the suppository into his rectum. In most cases, suppositories are meant to be inserted, using a clean, dry finger, about 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) into the rectum. Once a suppository is inserted, a patient usually has to remain lying on his side for several minutes. This is usually done to make sure the suppository melts completely and isn’t accidentally expelled from the body; once it melts, however, an individual can usually move around normally.
The effectiveness of suppositories may depend on the specific medication they contain, as a stronger bowel stimulant may lead to a bowel movement faster than a milder one can. Some suppositories, however, are not stimulants but work as lubricants instead. This type of suppository lubricates the area and makes it easier to push stools out, but may not be as effective when stools are very hard. Some suppositories contain both a stimulant and a lubricant to stimulate bowel movements and make it easier for the person to push stools from his body. An individual may do well to ask his doctor for advice on which types of suppositories are most effective before attempting to treat his constipation.
Using suppositories for constipation often provides faster relief than a person could expect with an oral laxative. Many oral laxatives take up to 12 hours to work, but suppositories usually produce bowel movements in less than 60 minutes. They may also work in cases in which oral laxatives are less effective than desired. Suppositories can, however, cause side effects. For example, a person may experience abdominal cramping and diarrhea after using suppositories for constipation; some people may also experience nausea and irritation of the rectal area after using them.