Managing Post-Surgical Pain

Jun 22, 2022
Managing Post-Surgical Pain
Apprehension about post-surgical pain is a common concern for many patients. There are worries about pain medications, dependency, recovery time, and comfort.

Apprehension about post-surgical pain is a common concern for many patients. There are worries about pain medications, dependency, recovery time, and comfort. 

The good news is that prescription pain medication is no longer the first, or only, the recommendation you will hear about. Today, alternative post-surgical pain treatment options are available, helping to alleviate concerns about prescription dependencies following surgery.

Consulting with pain specialists and talking through your options with your doctor allows every patient to put together a post-surgical pain treatment plan that eases pain, speeds up recovery, reduces the risk of complications, and prioritizes comfort.

Read on to discover what options you have for treating post-surgical pain and what conversations you can have with your post-surgical pain doctor in order to receive the right treatment plan for you and your lifestyle.

Note – The below information should not be taken as medical advice and is merely intended as a guide to help readers understand their post-surgical pain treatment options. Always talk with your doctor before implementing any treatment regimen.

Post-Surgical Pain Causes

Managing Post-Surgical Pain

Before exploring the options for managing post-surgical pain, it’s important to understand the causes of post-surgical pain. These may vary based on the length of surgery, the type of surgery, and other possible factors, but in general, these are the most common causes of post-surgical pain patients should be prepared for.

  • Muscle Pain: Laying on the operating table, patients may experience muscle pain in the neck, shoulders, back, or chest after waking up and during recovery.
  • Throat Pain from Anesthesia: The throat may be sore or scratchy from intubation during surgery due to anesthesia.
  • Movement Pain: After lying immobile during surgery, movement will be painful or stiff, especially around the incision site.
  • Incision Pain: Known as somatic pain, this is pain around the incision site and the area where the surgeon has cut. This may be sore or painful following surgery.
  • Visceral Pain: During some surgeries, organs must be cut into. Visceral pain is the pain felt after cutting into an organ. This is a very common post-op surgical pain.
  • Damage to Nerve Cells: Nerve damage can occur during surgery due to incision site locations and some patients may feel what is called Neuropathic Pain.
  • Referred Pain: Sometimes patients will feel pain in an area of the body that was not directly impacted during surgery. Referred pain is the brain interpreting pain signals incorrectly and getting the area of the pain wrong.

What to Expect from Post-Surgical Pain

Understanding the pain and what to expect can help ease a patient’s mind following surgery. Always talk to your doctor about what specific pain you will feel with your surgery. In general, however, patients can expect increased pain for the first 48 hours following the surgery.

Pain is oftentimes worse at night, due to activities completed during the day or sleeping positions that aggravate the pain areas. If you experience chronic pain or already undergo pain treatment, it is important to talk to your doctor about how that may impact your post-surgical pain treatment and expectations.

You should expect to feel tired, sore, and have pain associated with some movements. Rest, light activity, and comfortable positions are a must in order to allow the body to relax and healing to take place.

Managing Post-Surgical Pain - Without Medications

Many patients are already aware that prescription pain drugs are available after surgery. What’s important to understand is that there are other many other post-surgical management options that can be used instead of or alongside prescription pain medication. Many patients appreciate alternative pain treatment options to lessen the dependency on common prescription medications.

If you are prescribed pain medication to treat post-surgery pain, talk with your doctor about what other activities you can use alongside the medication. Medication can be a first step to staying ahead of the pain but it does not need to be the only treatment option available.

Here are some at-home post-surgical pain treatment options you can discuss with your doctor to use alongside or instead of traditional prescribed pain medication:

  • Relaxation and Meditation: Intentional relaxation, focused breathing, and meditation can help create a calm body. Acquiring relaxation-focused audio or meditation guides can help create steady breathing and a slower heart rate, which improves recovery.
  • Hot/Cold Therapy: Your surgical team will always discuss if hot/cold therapy is important to your recovery following surgery. Applying heat or cold can help reduce swelling, improve blood flow, and more. This is not applicable after every surgery and should be discussed with your post-surgical pain doctor.
  • Lots of Rest: Rest isn’t recommended just for fun – sleeping well, allowing the body to rest, and being comfortable all help ease pain and speed up recovery. Your post-surgical pain treatment plan should allow at least 8 hours of sleep a night, sometimes more. Always find a comfortable position to not aggravate the surgical area.
  • Introduce Activity Slowly: As your body heals and energy returns, introduce activity slowly and at a steady pace. Returning to normal activity too quickly can aggravate pain sites and actually prolong recovery with setbacks or complications.
  • Adjust Positions Frequently: While rest and comfort are important to recovery, remaining in one position for too long can be detrimental to recovery. A balance of proper rest with light walks, movement, and talking is recommended. Although these areas may be sore at first, it’s important to stretch the muscles and work the body.
  • Avoid Stressors and Aggravators: If you notice a particular activity aggravates the incision site or causes pain, reduce or eliminate that activity until you have a chance to talk with your doctor. Recovery takes time and some stressors will annoy the pain, so it is important to avoid those activities during recovery.

Why It’s Important to Manage Post-Surgical Pain

Managing Post-Surgical Pain

Remember! Managing post-surgical pain is vital to a healthy recovery. When the body is in pain, it does not heal as efficiently or as fast. While some patients like to forgo medication and push through the pain, this can delay recovery and can increase complications.

Finding the right post-surgical pain treatment plan for you and your lifestyle can have dramatic improvements and help speed things along. Treating post-surgical pain is not just about comfort but about health, recovery, and reducing risks.

If you are interested in post-surgical pain treatment options, set up an appointment with one of our post-surgical pain doctors today. At Pain Management Associates, we will consult with you on your pain level and how you can best live pain-free following surgery.

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